Postcard 5: Tadeusz Czerniak

»We were housed in wood barracks, 18 people to a room. Every Saturday, one of us got a permit to visit the town. But these visits were dangerous because sometimes the German teenagers played tricks on us. When a Pole was walking on the sidewalk, they used their fists to force him onto the street, whereupon he was chased back onto the sidewalk by the police.«

Source: “Foundation Polish-German Reconciliation,” Warsaw

Tadeusz Czerniak 1941, Polish forced laborer in Brandenburg

Born in 1919 in Smulsko near Łódź, Tadeusz was put to work in an armaments factory in Eberswalde in April 1940. At first glance, the photograph appears to depict an image of carefree leisure and self-determination, even though the fence of the forced labor camp is visible in the background. But Tadeusz Czerniak’s commentary makes it clear that the reality was otherwise. The aura of tranquility was deceptive; the Polish laborers enjoyed no legal protections and were liable at any moment to become the victim of ill-will from Germans who had no fear of sanctions. The ever-present threat tainted even the few leisure hours available to the Polish workers, which could offer no true escape from the oppressive daily existence of the camp and work.