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Survivor Profiles: John Krawiec

It is good to for the younger generations to learn, because that – it has some influence on stopping it again.

John Krawiec

His Story:

John Krawiec was born on June 15, 1919, in Bircza, Poland. In September 1939, John was an infantry officer when the Nazis invaded Poland. Not wanting to be caught as a POW, John snuck from the front lines to the home of a local Polish farmer, disposed of his uniform, and changed into civilian clothing, and walked over 60 miles to his parent’s home.   

Shortly thereafter, John joined the underground movement that was assisting the Polish government in exile in Paris.  In the spring of 1940, John began publishing an underground bulletin about the news of the war.  Each week he would move the printing presses to avoid being discovered.  John worked with a local pastor who obtained permission to have a radio.  The pastor would listen to the Polish government program from Paris (and later from London) and pass the information along to John to print.  John’s sister, brother, brother-in-law, and other friends helped distribute the bulletin.   

In September 1940, John discovered that an informant for the Gestapo had infiltrated the underground network and was spying on him.  After a trip to Krakow, John returned home to discover the Gestapo had come to his parent’s house to arrest him.  Not wanting to live in fear for their lives, John’s parents kicked him out of their home.  John returned to the underground and was provided with false papers and an alias.  

In 1943, John was to report to special underground training to become acquainted with new weapons and then join the partisan effort.  However, on May 22, 1943, on his way to the training, John stopped in Yiroslav to visit a friend.  At the train station, John was arrested by the Gestapo in a case of mistaken identity-he looked similar to a Polish underground man who had shot the Second in Command of the local Gestapo. John was tortured and imprisoned for 10 weeks under suspicion of underground activity.   

John was sent to Tarnoff concentration camp before being transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and eventually to Buchenwald, where he worked as a gardener transporting manure from the local sewers.  By early 1944, John began receiving packages with food from his family.  He credits his survival to this food.  However, as the Allies approached, the parcels stopped coming and Buchenwald was bombed by the Americans. In September 1944, John was transferred to a subcamp of Buchenwald. Seven months later, he was sent on a march to Buchenwald. He briefly escaped from the march, was recaptured, and was placed in a camp with Soviet POWs before being liberated by the US Army.    

John immigrated to the United States in 1949.  He graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 1963 with a degree in Political Science, focusing on Russian Foreign Policy.  After years of working in factories, John became a journalist and eventually spent 18 years as the editor-in-chief of the Polish Daily Zgoda, the largest Polish daily newspaper in Chicago. 

Learn More:

USHMM testimony part 1 USHMM testimony part 2

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