Postcard 3: Maria Andrzejewska

»We yearn for – our homeland – our homes – freedom.«

Source: Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt e.V.

Maria Andrzejewska (center) ca. 1943, Polish forced laborer in Berlin-Reinickendorf

The photograph of Maria Andrzejewska and her two friends was taken in Schiller park in the Wedding district of Berlin. In a later account, Maria described their brief excursions to local parks and the zoo. The outings were a rare opportunity to escape her daily existence as a forced laborer in the armaments industry, which she later described: “The pain in my hands, covered in open blisters, and my feet covered in wounds, dulled my mind. I was devoid of thought. I lived as if in a trance, and I no longer cared whether or not I would survive another day.”

In 1942, Maria Andrzejewska was sent to live in a camp belonging to the Dr. Klaus Gottwart company in Berlin-Reinickendorf. The overcrowding in the camp, which was crawling with vermin, the epidemic disease, the constant humiliation and the heavy labor were all indelibly imprinted on her memory.
In 1944, Maria Andrzejewska attempted to flee but was captured by the police and sent to the Fehrbellin labor re-education camp, where she spent two weeks suffering from lack of food, back-breaking labor, and constant punishments. Weighing only 28 kilos, she was then sent to perform forced labor in Klausdorf, where she worked until the end of the war. Writing in 1997, she noted, “Even today I am amazed that I’m still alive, at age 80, after experiencing such terrible hardship.”

The photograph was presumably taken by a German photographer who offered his services to foreign laborers in the park.