More great eyewitness stories of Auschwitz

Holocaust horrors couldn’t break the spirit of Auschwitz survivor

Nick Lees

The Edmonton Journal

January 29, 2005



[Rajmund] Pierzchajlo spent three years and four months in Auschwitz and says he witnessed countless brutal beatings, executions carried out at the whim of guards, and countless Jews and others walk innocently to the gas chambers.


“Everyone knows the smell of a barbecue,” says Pierzchajlo. “We had that smell in our nostrils every moment of every day. It was the smell of burning flesh. We of course felt sorry for all those who died. But there was absolutely nothing we could do.”


“As a carpenter, I also visited the Birkenau and other sub-camps to make repairs,” he said.

“I saw what was going on. I saw the never-ending black columns of smoke belching from chimneys.


Pierzchajlo watched the first Russian prisoners — about 500 top officials of the NKVD, the political police — arrive after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union.

“They looked well-groomed and marched with confidence, as if to say, ‘Stalin wouldn’t let anyone harm us,’ ” says Pierzchajlo. “But most or all of them were of Jewish ancestry and were placed in the death barrack.”


The memory of those dreadful times still brings nightmares.

When he finds his mind drifting back during the day, he makes himself think of the few lighter moments there were at Auschwitz. SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer (Captain) Rudolph Hess [sic] was the commandant of Auschwitz and never did find out what happened to his impeccably groomed German shepherd that vanished as soon as it arrived at the camp.

The dog was cooked in the prisoners’ kitchen,” says Pierzchajlo. “If you have ever been close to dying from hunger, you’d know what a treat that was.”

© The Edmonton Journal 2005