Friday, January 6, 2017

Czesława Kwoka, age 14, child victim of Auschwitz, as shown in her prisoner identification photo taken in December 1942

Prisoner identity photographs, taken by Wilhelm Brasse, of Czeslawa Kwoka of Poland. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Czeslawa arrived with her family at Auschwitz on Dec. 13, 1942, and died on March 12, 1943. She was 14. (Credit Auschwitz Museum, via Associated Press)

Czesława Kwoka was born in Wólka Złojecka, a small village in Poland, to a Catholic mother, Katarzyna Kwoka. Along with her mother (prisoner number 26946), Czesława Kwoka (prisoner number 26947) was deported and transported from Zamość, Poland, to Auschwitz, on 13 December 1942. On 12 March 1943, less than a month after her mother died (18 February 1943), Czesława Kwoka died at the age of 14; the circumstances of her death were not recorded. Kwoka was one of the "approximately 230,000 children and young people aged less than eighteen" among the 1,300,000 people who were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from 1940 to 1945.

After her arrival at Auschwitz, Czesława Kwoka was photographed for the Reich's concentration camp records, and she has been identified as one of the approximately 40,000 to 50,000 subjects of such "identity pictures" taken under duress at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Wilhelm Brasse, a young Polish inmate in his twenties (known as Auschwitz prisoner number 3444). Trained as a portrait photographer at his aunt's studio prior to the 1939 German invasion of Poland beginning World War II, Brasse and others had been ordered to photograph inmates by their Nazi captors, under dreadful camp conditions and likely imminent death if the photographers refused to comply.

These photographs that he and others were ordered to take capture each inmate "in three poses: from the front and from each side." Though ordered to destroy all photographs and their negatives, Brasse became famous after the war for having helped to rescue some of them from oblivion.

Such acts of courage as Brasse's and his colleagues enabled many like Kwoka not to become forgotten as mere bureaucratic statistics, but to be remembered as individual human beings.

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