August Kowalczyk was a prisoner of Auschwitz. He ended up in the Death Block

  • If his mother’s expectations were fulfilled, August Kowalczyk would become a priest. The outbreak of World War II changed these plans
  • From December 1940 to June 1942, Kowalczyk was a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp
  • He took the marriage oath four times. He had two sons: Marek (born 1950) and Marcin (born 1957)
  • August Kowalczyk died on July 29, 2012 in a hospice in Oświęcim
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August Kowalczyk was born on August 15, 1921 in the village of Tarnawa-Góra (Świętokrzyskie Province). It was to be named after Gustaw Maria – that’s what his mother Czesława wanted. His father did not like this choice. Stanisław Kowalczyk (inspector of education, and later a long-term director of the Library of the Medical Academy in Lublin) first questioned Maria as a first name for his son. “Gustaw was not up to him either, so I became August in a compromise” – said the actor in an interview. He honestly admitted that his parents’ relationship was not happy.

“I don’t know another one that is so incomplete and so unsuccessful marriages like my parents. They were separated all the time, except that they did not divorce. My father lived in Lublin for 30 years, my mother lived in Kraków, and then in the countryside. On the 50th anniversary of their marriage, my father suddenly appeared – to ask for divorce. Mom didn’t even let him out the gate. The father was close friends with the wife of a friend who died tragically. It was his last love “- recalled August Kowalczyk.

Instead of a seminar – the Death Block in the Auschwitz concentration camp

After graduating from high school, August Kowalczyk intended to enter the seminary, and he was prepared by catechists from the Dębica high school.

“My mother had health problems and she promised that if everything was fine, her firstborn would be a priest. She promised the Mother of God. And then I took it over naturally. I was an altar boy, “he recalled in an interview.

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The outbreak of the war changed August Kowalczyk’s plans. He spent the summer of 1939 on the Poprad River in a military camp interrupted by mobilization. Then he left with his mother and brothers for the village of Mała, from where in 1940 he went to the Polish army created in France. He struggled with his colleague Zbigniew Makuszewski. They were arrested near the Slovak-Hungarian border and extradited to Germany. First, they were imprisoned in Dukla, then in Jasło, and finally – in mid-November – in Tarnów.

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On the morning of December 4, 1940, August Kowalczyk (and 99 other prisoners from Tarnów) entered the gate of the German concentration camp Auschwitz.

“After four hours, shaved, shaven, in a striped uniform, with a number on my chest, I was standing on the assembly square of the Auschwitz concentration camp. August Kowalczyk was deleted for a long time, and prisoner no. 6804 was established in this place“- he wrote in the book” The Barbed Wire Refrain “.

He spent a year and a half in Auschwitz. He transported bricks from which new blocks were built, and demolished buildings in the villages of Dwory and Monowice. He made contact with the civilian population, for which he ended up in cell no. 20 in the Death Block. He was interrogated for two weeks, the questions concerned smuggling food to the camp. Then he was summoned to the camp office, where SS-Hauptscharführer Gerhard Arno Max Palitzsch read him the sentence.

“Prisoner 6804 for contacts with civilians he is sentenced to a penal company for lifein addition, for having an excess of the statutory amount of money he is sentenced to flogging twice with 25 sticks“- heard August Kowalczyk.

“Life imprisonment” in the penal company meant several days of life.

The only chance of survival was to escape. On June 10, 1942, several dozen prisoners (including August Kowalczyk, informed by Mieczysław Kawecki) made an attempt to get out.

“Mietek did not survive it. They shot him, just like 12 other escapees. They caught another 20, and then seven more. Two of us survived. Me and Tadeusz Chruściński. The 320 prisoners who remained in the camp, marked with red marks, were gassed the next day in the White House “- recalled the actor years later.

Look: He escaped from a concentration camp. “In front of me a forest … The gate to freedom”

August Kowalczyk escaped to the forest. To confuse the dogs, he took off his clothes and shoes, which he scattered in different directions. Local women found him, dressed him in a white shirt and embroidered skirt, they gave a basket and a digger. Kowalczyk escaped at night, and during the day he hid in the fields. He spent seven weeks in the attic of a house in the village of Bojszowy. He left for Silesia with false documents. Until the end of the war, he fought in the ranks of the Home Army.

The villain role specialist

In 1945, August Kowalczyk began his Polish studies at the Jagiellonian University. He decided to become a writer. However, he changed his plans when he joined the team of the Rapsodyczny Theater. He decided to become an actor.

He made his screen debut in 1953 with the role of Zenon in Aleksander Ford’s “Five from Barska Street”. He played in many famous films (Andrzej Wajda’s “Generation”, “The Saragossa Manuscript” by Wojciech Jerzy Has, “Chłopi” by Jan Rybkowski) and series (“Stawka greater than life”, “Janosik”, “Polish roads). roles of villains, he often performed in Nazi uniforms.

“People think that since I saw these criminals, I can now imitate them. It is not true. I don’t remember their behavior. But I remembered perfectly well what emotions, reactions, and fear aroused in me. By playing these characters, I tried to evoke the same emotions in the audience. And this is the whole secret “- he said in an interview for” Dziennik Polski “.


Photo: PAP / Maciej Sochor / PAP

August Kowalczyk in the series “Janosik”

His mother did not accept his wives

August Kowalczyk always spoke honestly about his private life. He took the marriage vows four times. From the first, seven-year marriage with Maria Zbrożek he had a son, Marek (born 1950). The relationship broke up when she appeared in the actor’s life daughter of the Minister of Light Industry Eugeniusz Stawiński – Gabriel. She was a lawyer, the wife of an employee of the Polish consulate in Italy. First, she saw August Kowalczyk in two films (“Piątka z ulica Barskiej” and “Where is this street, where is the house”), then she met him. They had an affair, they were born son Marcin (born in 1957).

“I wanted to scream all over Krakow, I was so happy. I was washing diapers and boiling bottles. Everyone said with envy: he married the minister’s daughter. It was only when Marcin was eight months old that I forced Frania’s washing machine on my father-in-law“- recalled the actor.

They got married when their son was five years old. Kowalczyk had to fight for a long time with Eugeniusz Stawiński, who did not want to agree to his daughter’s relationship with the actor.

“I was 17 with Gabriela. For the last seven years, I had a camp, not a home. When I was managing the Mickiewicz Theater in Częstochowa, I got into an affair with an actress. She turned out to be a hunter. I was the game. She imagined that he would become friends with my wife and tell her what was between us, and then my wife would put the suitcases out the door, and then I would come to her. It did not happen. My wife didn’t throw me out, but she never forgave me for this affair“- August Kowalczyk said in an interview for” Dziennik Polski “. The relationship with Gabriela ended in 1974.

The actress became the third wife of August Kowalczyk Krystyna Królówna. At first, he was interested only as a colleague, then a fascination with her professional skills emerged, which turned into flirting. Their marriage lasted 10 years.

“But suddenly someone else came Thirteen years younger than her, she trusted him. I just asked her in a quiet conversation if it was romance or love. She said love. She’s gone, “recalled the actor.

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August Kowalczyk was 63 years old when a new love appeared in his life. “Thanks to her, I flourished. But it ended. She chose the good of the family.” – He admitted. The romance lasted 10 years. After the breakup, the actor was convinced that “everything was interesting” was behind him. He did, however Eugenia Gromyszwho became his fourth wife.

What was his mother’s attitude towards the chosen ones of August Kowalczyk? “She did not accept them. She was such a general. She knew best how to raise a child, what the child should eat and when it should sleep (…) It was dramatic. My wife on one side, my mother on the other, and me in the middle“- did not hide the actor.

August Kowalczyk is a witness to memory and a guardian of time

For 30 years, August Kowalczyk traveled around the country with his monodrama “6804”, in which he shared his experiences and memories with young people. The last, 6804th, performance took place in Auschwitz on the 70th anniversary of his escape – on June 10, 2012.

From 1981, he was also involved in the activities of the Society for the Protection of Auschwitz. He participated in the preparations for the celebrations of subsequent anniversaries of the liberation of KL Auschwitz. He was the main initiator of the construction of the Monument-Hospice of the City of Oświęcim, intended for people who saved prisoners during the German occupation. In interviews he said:

August Kowalczyk died on July 29, 2012 in hospice in Oświęcim. According to his wishes, he also spent the last days of his life, which were fulfilled by the fight against cancer. He was buried in Powązki Military.

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