Monday, February 9, 2009

David Wajnapel - and my father?

I met with David Wajnapel's son Stanley yesterday. David was an inmate doctor at Blizyn and Auschwitz concentration camps and lost his whole family in his home town of Radom. After surviving the Gleiwitz death march, he ended up in the Stuttgart Displaced Persons camp (where Stanley was born), and was hired by the JDC as Chief Doctor for all the DP camps in Wittenberg and Baden.

Here's a portion of David's IMT Nuremberg testimony from the invaluable H.E.A.R.T. Holocaust Research site:
On 21st March 1943, there took place throughout the whole district the so-called 'action against the intelligentsia', which action, as I know, was decided upon in an SS and Police Leaders' meeting in Radom. In Radom alone about 200 people were shot at that time; among others, my parents, my brother and his nine-month-old child met their deaths.

On 9th November of the same year all Jewish children up to 12 years of age as well as the old and sick were gathered from Radom and from camps situated near Radom, and shot in the Biala Street in Radom. Both SS officers and other ranks participatedin this. From March 1943, I stayed 18 months in Blizyn Camp.

Drawing by David Wajnapel

The camp was entirely under the SS and the Radom Police Chief's control. Its commandant was Untersturmf├╝hrer Paul Nell. The guards were composed of SS privates and non- commissioned officers. The foremen were Waffen-SS-men who had been wounded at the front. Both behaved in an inhuman manner by beating and ill-treating us. Shootings of people were frequent occurrences.

Originally sentences were passed by the SS and Police Leader, later on by the camp commandant. The SS other ranks knew very well about the bloody deeds which were committed by the SS in Poland, in particular they told me personally about mass murders of Jews in Majdanek (Aktion Erntefest), in November 1943). This fact was no secret. It was common knowledge among the civil population as well as among the lowest-ranking SS men.

When the camp was taken over by the Majdanek concentration camp, new guards were sent to our camp, but there was no difference between them and the previous ones. In July 1944, the whole camp, including myself, was sent to Auschwitz camp, which could be entered only by SS-men. The conditions of this camp are well known. I escaped during the evacuation of this camp into Germany. On the way, the SS escort machine gunned exhausted prisoners and later on the rest of the marching column. Several hundred people were killed at that time.

David's son, Dr. Stanley Wainapel, now Director of Rehabilitative Medicine at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, kindly gave me a copy of his father's book, "From Death Row to Freedom," which I read last night.

I had discovered a few weeks ago that David Wajnapel was a close friend of one of my father's closest friends, Stan Fraydas, who was born in Radom. My father and Stan were close before the war, and saw each other regularly into the 1980's. Similarly, David and Stan saw each other in New York for many years.

L to R: Mary, Miriam Fraydas, Stan Fraydas, John and Roma

David Wajnapel died in 1988, so I contacted David's son to find out -- did David also know my father? How, when and where might they have met? So far as I knew my father never lived in Radom, and had not been in those camps.

The book provided a plausible answer. In about 1925 David Wajnapel went to Warsaw, where my father was living, to go to Warsaw Medical School, and stayed there for about 6 years. For David, those years were 18-24, and for my father, 16-22. In the last chapter of the book, David mentions with gratitude the kindness of old friends rediscovered in New York City when he arrived in 1948. One of those friends was Stan Fraydas, not named, but described clearly. Stan, David states, was actually a distant relative, and had been his friend and roommate in Warsaw when David was a medical student.

From some of the stories from that period David recounts, women figured prominently in his life-style. Jakub Cytryn fit right in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Searing description.

February 13, 2009 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger Fern Fruitman said...

My mother's family was also from Radom and were in Blyzin Concentration Camp. She knew Dr. Wajnapel very well. He tried (with medicine obtained with diamonds - that's another story) to save my grandmother's life from Typhus. She did not survive Typhus. My mother saw Dr. Wajnapel in the late 70's early 80's, (he lived in Ellenville and my mother was staying at a hotel in the Catskills). They met halfway (for both of them) at the Concord Hotel. My mother is now 92 years old and has an excellent memory. He gave her a copy of his book and inscribed a message to her in the front cover. Unfortunately my mother's sister lost the book. She would very much like to get another copy, and I'm sure she would like to speak to Dr. Wajnapel's son.

February 27, 2017 at 1:53 PM  

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