Dr Leon Głogowski

How to cite: Kłodziński, S. Dr Leon Głogowski. Kapera, M., trans. Medical Review – Auschwitz. November 6, 2020. Originally published in Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. 1971: 162–164.

Author

Stanisław Kłodziński, MD, 1918–1990, lung specialist, Department of Pneumology, Academy of Medicine in Kraków. Co-editor of Medical Review – Auschwitz. Former prisoner of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (prisoner no. 20019).


Dr Leon Głogowski. Source: Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1971.. Click the image to enlarge.

The life and work of Dr Leon Głogowski were deeply affected by the fact that his native region, Silesia,1 was ethnically mixed. He was born into a Polish family in Gliwice (German name Gleiwitz) on 5 April 1908. His father, Piotr Głogowski, was a railway assistant who died in 1935 following an assault and battery by a Nazi hit squad. His mother was Anna née Świerk. When Leon completed his five-year primary education, he attended a grammar school in Gliwice, which he finished in 1928. Then he commenced his medical studies at the faculty of natural sciences in Greifswald, Germany, but moved in 1929 to the medical faculty of the university in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). In August 1934 he graduated in medicine and after a year’s internship in the university clinic in Breslau he received a doctor’s licence. He obtained his doctoral degree in medicine in 1938.

Głogowski’s parents were Polish by origin and considered themselves Polish. They imbued patriotic feelings in their son Leon and made him cherish his ties with Poland. As a grammar school student, Leon spared neither effort nor time to distribute Polish newspapers, put up posters and deliver leaflets before the plebiscite. He was a member of a scouting team at Szobiszowice.2

During the Third Silesian Uprising he served as a courier between insurgent units and was assaulted on several occasions by German nationalists. Following the plebiscite and the demarcation of the border, he continued to live in the region of Opole (then Oppeln), although his family were harassed, for instance they were evicted from their lodgings. At university he belonged to the Union of Poles in Germany3 and was president of Silesia Superior,4 a union of students and graduates of the University of Breslau. For several years he ran a Polish choir, teaching Polish folk songs. Using a duplicator, he made copies of the music and lyrics and distributed them in the neighbourhood of Oppeln.

As a member of the Polish minority in Germany and an activist of the Union of Poles, Głogowski was consistently discriminated against. For instance, he was not allowed to take up postgraduate specialization training, neither was he permitted to start a private practice of his own on German territory. Having graduated as a doctor, to scrape a living he filled in for colleagues working in the same area. For a few months in 1939 he was employed as an unpaid assistant in Gleiwitz municipal hospital, but was soon dismissed. Finally, he was banned from practising medicine in the Third Reich altogether. Therefore in January 1939 he went to Poland, obtained Polish citizenship and applied to the Dean’s Office at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Poznań, to have his German medical qualifications nostrified. Regrettably, he had not managed to complete the formalities by the time the Second World War broke out. However, he started working as an assistant in Rybnik mental hospital. On 24 October 1939, when he contacted the Dean’s Office in Poznań to collect his documents, he was told to present a certificate that he had joined the Deutsche Volksliste.5 As he had just become a citizen of Poland, it was clear the formalities would never be completed.

Shortly afterwards he lost his job in Rybnik and had to start a private practice. After several months, in May 1940, the Gestapo detained Dr Głogowski and held him in Rybnik jail for a few days. On 8 May 1940 he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was registered as political prisoner No. 1281. After a few weeks in “quarantine,” Głogowski, whose spoken and written German was fluent, and what’s more, he was able to take German down in shorthand, managed to land a job as an office clerk in the prisoners’ hospital of Auschwitz I, and later worked as an orderly and a prisoner-doctor in various wards in Birkenau.

Thanks to a petition by the Silesian chamber of physicians, he was released from the camp in December 1942. Despite a serious heart condition that he had developed in the camp, he was appointed head of a steelworkers’ hospital in Siemianowice Śląskie (German name Siemianowitz). On 6 September 1943, he was dismissed from that post and ordered to accept the position of assistant physician in the internal ward of the hospital in Wełnowiec (Hohenlohehütte), a district of Katowice (Kattowitz). As it was an unpaid job, Dr Głogowski filed a complaint, but the unfair decision was upheld: apparently Dr Głogowski was notdienstverpflichtet, that is obliged to render his services in times of national emergency. When Silesia was liberated, he continued to supervise that ward.

Dr Głogowski’s life was full of paradoxes. He was born into a Polish family and considered himself Polish, but he spent his childhood and youth in Germany. His native region was Silesia and he worked for the Polish community in the neighbourhood of Opole, yet he had to leave his homeland and flee the Third Reich, as it offered him no future: he would have had to betray his ideals or else be sent to a concentration camp. He decided to move to Poland and settle in Rybnik, just over the border and not far from his family home. However, at that time Silesia was strongly infiltrated by various Nazi German organisations, such as Der Deutsche Volksbund für Polnisch?Schlesien, Gewerkschaft Deutscher Arbeiter in Polen, Bund Deutscher Osten, and other clandestine agencies of the Nazi Party involved in acts of sabotage against the Polish Republic and preparing to act as a fifth column for the prospective German invasion of Poland. Their operations were met with strong and spontaneously opposition from Polish citizens, but no adequate countermeasures from the Polish state. As a naturalized person, Dr Głogowski was sometimes treated with suspicion, especially as he did not speak standard Polish, only Silesian dialect with many German borrowings. So his work in Rybnik mental hospital was a difficult experience for him: although he earned the trust of his fellow Silesians, the Polish authorities were not as magnanimous.

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Dr Leon Głogowski found himself in a trap: the Nazis saw him as a fugitive and traitor to the Third Reich, whom they captured in occupied Poland. The only place where he could receive proper punishment was the recently established concentration camp in Auschwitz.

Dr Głogowski’s life in the camp was made known in his writings published in Przegląd Lekarski — Oświęcim. He described his period of adapting to the camp realities in two articles: “Moje pierwsze dni w obozie oświęcimskim” (Przegląd Lekarski — Oświęcim 1968, pp. 191?194)6 and “Kwarantanna obozu Oświęcim?Brzezinka” (Przegląd Lekarski — Oświęcim 1966, pp. 190?194).7 In the first months following the establishment of the camp, the SS men and the functionary prisoners, who were recruited from among criminal offenders, harassed the political prisoners, especially by means of strict discipline, drills, physical exertion, and maltreatment. Dr Głogowski also wrote about his work in the prisoners’ hospital and his own health problems in three more articles: “?Szpital’ w Brzezince” (Przegląd Lekarski — Oświęcim 1965, pp. 109?114),8 “Królik doświadczalny” (ibid., pp. 108?109),9 and “Epizod z obozu oświęcimskiego” (Przegląd Lekarski — Oświęcim 1970, pp. 202?203).10


Dr Leon Głogowski’s camp photo. Source: Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Click the image to enlarge.

Despite the appalling conditions and the heavy death toll in the camp, Dr Głogowski was remarkably cheerful and kept smiling. He had many close friends, mainly prisoners from Silesia, who were his eager helpers and, like the other inmates, had a lot of respect for him. Głogowski would often sing or hum, though he had a bad singing voice. He was a kind and reliable man. His medical ethics and courage were put to the test when the Standortsarzt,  SS Obersturmführer Dr Siegfried Schwela,11 told him to kill prisoners with phenol injections. Głogowski refused and henceforth had to face Schwela’s hostility.

Dr Głogowski received equally malevolent treatment from Leo Wietschorek,12 prisoner No. 30, a professional criminal who became Lagerälteste13 and lived up to his nickname of Leon Groźny (literally “Leo the Terrible”). Dr Głogowski stopped fearing for his life only after Wietschorek died of typhus. Głogowski was an unassuming person: although he was knowledgeable and a figure of authority, his kindness and gentleness always came to the fore. With his pouting lips, he looked like a boy and was always joyful and jocular. As a doctor, he came across as a careful, tactful, and understanding person. He spent all his evenings in the dispensary, hurriedly changing dressings for hundreds of his inpatients until the gong was sounded, announcing the roll call. He wanted to be free afterwards, as that was the only time he could take care of prisoners who had returned to the camp after a day’s work.

For Dr Głogowski, his release from the camp was a stroke of luck, especially as his health had been deteriorating following a spell of typhus and pleurisy. He suffered from a serious heart condition and otitis media. However, when he was discharged, his colleagues lost a valuable member of staff who used his influence in the camp on behalf of his patients.

It was only after the war that Dr Głogowski had his medical qualifications validated by the Jagiellonian University. His doctorate, earned in pre-war Breslau, was recognised by the Board of the Medical Faculty. On 16 December 1955, he became a first degree specialist in internal medicine, and on 6 January 1963, a second degree specialist. His children entered their father’s profession.

Dr Głogowski held various important positions. For instance, he supervised an outpatient primary care clinic and an occupational medicine clinic in Wełnowiec, a district of Katowice. In that local community, he also worked as a physician for the Polish social insurance company. For some time, he acted as a doctor of trust for the coal-mining conglomerate company Katowickie Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Węglowego. He worked for the Central Mining Institute,14 focusing on prevention and toxicology, and in 1947?1952 offered a course on personal hygiene and sanitation at Wełnowiec industry and metallurgy school.15

In recognition of his efforts as a member of the Union of Poles in Germany, his patriotic attitude in Auschwitz, and his contribution to advances in medicine in post-war Poland, Dr Głogowski was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Knight’s Cross;16 the Silesian Uprising Cross;17 the Medal of Victory and Freedom;18 the Badge for Outstanding Medical Service;19 the Polish Red Cross Gold, Silver and Bronze Crosses;20 the Former Member’s Badge of the Union of Poles in Germany;21 the Honorary Scouting Badge of Service to Silesia;22 the Millennium of Polish Statehood Badge;23 and many other distinctions conferred either by health service institutions or ZBoWiD,24 a veterans’ association. Dr Głogowski took up long-term voluntary work as the founder and head of a branch of the Polish Red Cross in Wełnowiec, sat on the board of the local branch of ZBoWiD and the Katowice branch of the Polish Medical Association,25 and served as a medical expert for the Katowice Regional Board of ZBoWiD.

Dr Leon Głogowski died suddenly on 18 April 1970. His funeral was attended by crowds of Silesians paying their last respects. 

[s. 162] Photo 1 Dr Leon Głogowski

[zdjęcie s. 164] Wartime photo of the Montelupich jail in Kraków. Note the last window on the right on the first floor: Stanisław Marusarz, a Polish Nordic skier and ski jumper, took a brave dive from it and escaped from Gestapo captivity.

***

Translated from original article: Kłodziński, S. Dr Leon Głogowski. Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1971.


Notes

  1. Silesia had a mixed population of Germans and Poles. The restoration of Poland’s independence in 1918 was followed by three uprisings by the Poles of Silesia, who wanted their region to belong to Poland. In 1921 a plebiscite was held to demarcate the border between Germany and Poland. In Gliwice/Gleiwitz 21.09% of the votes were for Poland, and the city remained in Germany, but the border ran just a few kilometres to the east. In 1945 the city became part of Poland.a
  2. Now a district of Gliwice.b
  3. Związek Polaków w Niemczech.b
  4. Związek Akademików Górnoślązaków Silesia Superior.a
  5. Under the Nazi regime the Deutsche Volksliste was a register of persons with German roots, known as Volksdeutsche, who were given preferential treatment in German-occupied territories.b
  6. “My first days in Auschwitz.” Polish version in the 1968 edition on this website.b
  7. “Quarantine in Auschwitz?Birkenau.” Polish version in the 1966 edition on this website.b
  8. “The pseudo-hospital in Birkenau.” Polish version in the 1965 edition on this website.b
  9. “A human guinea-pig.” Polish version in the 1965 edition on this website.b
  10. “An incident in Auschwitz.” Polish version in the 1970 edition on this website.b
  11. SS-Hauptsturmführer Siegfried Schwela (1905-1942), chief camp physician of Auschwitz. Died of typhus fever in the camp, infected in a sabotage campaign conducted by the on-site resistance movement commanded by Capt. Witold Pilecki.b
  12. Leo Wietschorek, one of the 30 criminal offenders the Nazis transferred from Sachsenhausen to Auschwitz to serve as its first functionaries. Mentioned in Wiesław Kielar’s book Anus Mundi as a notorious sadist. Died of typhus fever, 3 July 1942. Cf. http://www.historycy.org/index.php?showtopic=39397.b
  13. Camp elderb
  14. Główny Instytut Górnictwa.b
  15. Gimnazjum Przemysłowo-Hutnicze w Wełnowcu.b
  16. Krzyż Kawalerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski.b
  17. Śląski Krzyż Powstańczy.b
  18. Medal Zwycięstwa i Wolności.b
  19. Odznaka za Wzorową Pracę w Służbie Zdrowia.b
  20. Złoty, Srebrny i Brązowy Krzyż PCK.b
  21. Odznaka członka byłego Związku Polaków w Niemczech.b
  22. Honorowa Odznaka Harcerskiej Służby Ziemi Śląskiej.b
  23. Odznaka Tysiąclecia.b
  24. ZBoWiD, Związek Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację (the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy).b
  25. Polskie Towarzystwo Lekarskieb

a—notes by Marta Kapera, the translator of this article; b—notes by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa, Head Translator for the Medical Review Auschwitz project.


References

This article was based on

  1. Documents owned by Dr Głogowski’s family;
  2. His biography;
  3. Information provided by Dr Głogowski’s widow, daughters, and son;
  4. Letters I received from Dr Tadeusz Paczuła and Mr Józef Hordyński;
  5. Letters sent to Dr Głogowski’s widow by his friends and other Auschwitz survivors;
  6. My own memories of my confinement in Auschwitz I, where Dr Głogowski was my fellow prisoner.

      

A publication funded in 2020–2021 within the DIALOG Program of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland.

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