Col. Czesław Wincenty Jaworski, MD

How to cite: Kłodziński, Stanisław and Niedojadło, Eugeniusz. Col. Czesław Wincenty Jaworski, MD. Medical Review – Auschwitz. November 21, 2021. Originally published in Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. 1977: 217–220.

Author

Stanisław Kłodzinski, MD, 1918–1990, lung specialist, Department of Pneumology, Academy of Medicine in Kraków. Co-editor of Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. Former prisoner of the Auschwitz‑Birkenau concentration camp, prisoner No. 20019. Wikipedia article in English.

Eugeniusz Niedojadło, 1919–2007, economist, activist, Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor (prisoner No. 213). Niedojadło was sent to Auschwitz in 1940 in the first transport of Polish political prisoners from Tarnów and stayed in the camp until the Death March of 1945. During his imprisonment he served as an orderly in the prisoners’ hospital. After the War he was an active member of former prisoners’ unions and helped organise medical and humanitarian aid for concentration camp survivors.

In most cases, a disabled prisoner in a concentration camp was predestined to die. However, we know of exceptions to this rule; one of them, an example of a person who survived despite his disability and associated maladaptation, or even helplessness in the face of the ambient conditions in the camp, was Auschwitz survivor Dr Czesław Wincenty Jaworski, ex-prisoner No. 31070 and author of the well-known memoir Wspomnienia z Oświęcimia [Memories of Auschwitz] published in the volume Apel skazanych [Roll Call of the Doomed] (Warszawa: PAX, 1962). Col. Jaworski, a distinguished physician and social activist, died on 14 September 1975 in Warsaw. He was a Polish Army doctor and one of the first resistance fighters (non-de-guerre Doktor Sas) against the German occupying forces, and as such deserves a memorial biography.


Col Czesław Wincenty Jaworski. Source: Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1977. Click the image to enlarge.

He was born in Warsaw on 19 July 1896, into the family of Feliks Jaworski and his wife Aleksandra Jaworska née Neuberg. In July 1918 he finished grammar school in Warsaw. In 1916-1918 he was a member of the Warsaw branch of the Polish Military Organisation,1 completed its secret training course for infantry cadets, and became a military trainer for its secret NCO units. In October 1918 he was sent up to the Medical Faculty of the University of Warsaw, which he entered in the rank of wachmistrz (sergeant major). In February 1919 he was called up for active service2 and sent to No. 115 field hospital. In February 1920 he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant.

It was not until April 1921 that he was detailed to resume his medical studies at the University of Warsaw. He graduated with the Doctor Medicinae Universae3 degree on 14 November 1925. From then on he was a professional soldier, serving in the Polish Army first as a medical officer in the 23rd and 24th infantry regiments, next in Modlin military hospital, the 1st engineers’ regiment stationed in Modlin, and finally in the Modlin training centre for military engineers.4 In 1930 he was sent for a year’s internship to the First Regional Hospital, where he was detailed to work in the infectious diseases ward. In 1930 he was appointed chief medical officer of the Warsaw Central Institute for Physical Exercise.5 He was already a major when he was appointed deputy chief medical officer of the Warsaw District Corps6 in February 1937, and held this appointment until the evacuation of Warsaw in 1939.7

During the evacuation to Lwów, he sustained a knee injury and was due to be taken to hospital. Eventually on 16 September 1939,8 his knee was seen to in one of the hospitals in Lwów. Notwithstanding the fact that the injury to his knee joint was a permanent disability, on 7 November he returned to Warsaw to set up an undercover military medical service. Later Dr. Jaworski wrote about the beginnings of his pioneering resistance work, which he conducted with the knowledge of Col. Leon Strehl, MD.9 His account of this work appeared in an article entitled “Początki organizacji Tajnej Wojskowej Służby Zdrowia” (The beginnings of the Secret Military Medical Service), which was published in the conference proceedings of the Second National Congress of ZBoWiD10 physicians, held on 28-29 May 1968 in Warsaw. The volume was published by PZWL the following year, and Dr Jaworski’s article is on pages 525-529. Incidentally, we should point out that the generally invaluable and helpful Polish encyclopaedia of the Second World War (Encyklopedia II wojny światowej, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo MON, 1975), has numerous shortcomings as regards medical and concentration camp issues relating to the 1939-1945 period and does not mention the Secret Medical Service at all.

Moreover, in an effort to secure the required clandestine contacts for the purposes of recruiting and organising reliable individuals, Dr Jaworski tried to integrate his medical staff, which was dispersed throughout the fairly large number of resistance units in operation at the time and described in the publications on their history. In addition, he was also performing the duties of chief medical officer of the chief commands for the following organisations: PN (Polska Niepodległa; Independent Poland), which later became WOP (Wojskowa Organizacja Polska; Poland Military Organisation); KOP (Komenda Obrońców Polski; Defenders of Poland Command), which later transformed into PAL (Polska Armia Ludowa; the Polish People’s Army); and ZCZ (Związek Czynu Zbrojnego; Union of Armed Action). At this time Dr Jaworski did a lot to integrate the underground medical service. His crowning achievement was the creation of a joint medical service for the Warsaw division of ZWZ (Związek Walki Zbrojnej; Union of Armed Combat), which later transformed into AK (Armia Krajowa,11 the Home Army). He was appointed chief medical officer of ZWZ’s Warsaw command, and his deputy was Maj. Rudolf Diem, MD, who was arrested in early 1941 and sent to Auschwitz.

In this phase of his resistance activities, Dr Jaworski was working in his profession as a medical practitioner in the outpatients’ department, and later as head physician of the tuberculosis department of Ujazdowski Hospital,12 Warsaw. This job gave him the opportunity to assist the medical personnel in several of the resistance groups operating in Warsaw – and there were many of them at the time. Alongside the ones we have already mentioned, he also worked with the group of scouts commanded by Col. Rosołowski, who was killed in his residence in the Żoliborz district during a shoot-out with the Germans who came to arrest him. Then there was the “wolves’ group,” the “syndicate,” etc. Another type of resistance activity in which he was involved was the distribution of underground newspapers and broadsheets.

In the summer of 1941, Dr Jaworski assumed the duties of chief medical officer for the Warsaw division of ZWZ. The specialist physicians he recruited for service in the resistance movement treated members of the resistance in their surgeries free of charge, and collected supplies of dressings and surgical instruments from appointed places in the city. They obtained such resources illegally from the pharmacies of the First Regional Hospital, Ujazdowski Hospital, and from the proprietors of private pharmacies. Undercover medical supplies were also sent in to the prison hospital in the Pawiak jail.13 In 1940 Drs Jaworski, Diem, and Węglewicz organised a secret training course in Żoliborz for nurses and paramedics. Dr Jaworski was also involved in the fabrication of forged identity documents for individuals on the run, members of the resistance on the German wanted list, and others who needed such documents. He also produced disability ID cards, which protected their holders against deportation to Germany for slave labour14 or to a concentration camp. He used Ujazdowski Hospital’s TB department as a hideout for wounded members of the resistance. It was a department full of patients with an infectious disease, so Germans only rarely looked in.

Dr Jaworski’s residence served as a meeting place for members of various resistance groups, a centre for the distribution of the underground press, and a venue for conferences and meetings.

On 31 January 1942 the Gestapo arrested Dr Jaworski. After a ruthless interrogation, on 17 April 1942 he was sent to Auschwitz. His memoir, which was published by PAX as I have already mentioned, tells us what happened to him in Auschwitz. It was one of the first wartime memoirs written by a doctor to come out in book form.

Dr Jaworski did not break down even in the hardest conditions in Auschwitz. On the contrary, he joined the military resistance group operating inside the camp.15 He was brought into the group by Dr Diem. This group was a Polish organisation of professional officers confined in Auschwitz. Its leaders were discovered and identified by the Politische Abteilung (the political department of Auschwitz) and executed in November 1943. Those who were shot by firing squad were 2nd Lt. Teofil Dziama of the Polish Air Force, Col. Juliusz Gilewicz, Lt.-Col. Kazimierz Stamirowski, Maj. Zygmunt Bohdanowski (aka Bończa in the camp), Maj. Edward Gött-Getyński, and Capt. Tadeusz Lisowski (aka Paolone). Dozens of members of the group were executed, but their medical officers, Maj. Rudolf Diem, Dr Władysław Dering, and Dr Czesław Wincenty Jaworski, managed to survive. At this time Dr Jaworski happened to be working in a commando at Brno, Moravia, which he describes at length in his memoir.

According to the relation I have received from Dr Diem, one of Dr Jaworski’s characteristic features was that he always kept strictly to rules and instructions, which made it easier for him to climb the promotions ladder in the army, but in Auschwitz made it harder for him to adapt and left him more vulnerable to harassment from kapos and functionaries, who did not tolerate the sight of prisoners not busy with their work, not showing any initiative, and asking too many questions. On two occasions Dr Jaworski’s character and inability to adapt brought about his removal from the prisoners’ hospital. It had cost a lot of effort to get him into the hospital, but his inadvertent ineptness got him into the bad books of Welsch, the block elder. It was not until Dr Jaworski was hidden in the infectious ward of Block 20 that he could continue working in the hospital. He was very pedantic and punctilious in his work, as Dr Diem recalls, always cheerful and with a smile on his face. He was an asset in the secret resistance activities that went on in Auschwitz, just as he had proved his mettle in resistance work outside.

Dr Jaworski arrived in Auschwitz in a very bad state of health. His Pawiak incarceration, where he had been kept in Department 7, was very hard and left its mark on him. Especially the Gestapo interrogations took their toll, but he did not break down or disclose any names. In addition, his knee injury relapsed, causing pain and mobility problems. Regardless of his injured knee, straight on arrival in Auschwitz Dr Jaworski was sent to a series of work commandos engaged in hard and arduous labour. He was put to work on a road levelling job, mixing cement, and finally as a transportation labourer and warehouse assistant. Hard labour left him completely exhausted, but thanks to his acquaintance with Dr Diem, the physician working in the dispensary of Block 22, he was admitted to the prisoners’ hospital and put in room 3, Block 20. When he got a bit better, he was sent to convalesce and given a job in the potato peeling commando. However, before the end of 1942 he was back in hospital with exudative pleurisy.

On recovering, with the help of friends Dr Jaworski managed to be promoted, first to junior nurse, next to pharmacist, and eventually to a physician’s job, which was, of course, a tremendous advantage in helping him to survive. Other prisoners liked him and were ready to help; he was always calm, level-headed, friendly, helpful, and honest. He was a wise and understanding physician. From 1 October 1943 to 1 May 1944 he was working as a prisoner-doctor in Commando Brünn at Brno, Moravia, where he scored an incredible achievement. He tried to provide professional medical assistance for fellow prisoners as best and as ingeniously as he could, so much so that none of them died in the seven months that he was there. He even managed to make arrangements for an absolutely legal consultancy service with specialists from a local hospital.

On his return from Brünn, Dr Jaworski was sent to work in the prisoners’ hospital of Monowitz (Auschwitz III). He was accompanied on the job by his friend Eugeniusz Niedojadło, the co-author of this article, who had worked with him as an orderly in Brünn. Jaworski was much older and treated Niedojadło like a son, while Niedojadło helped him as much as he could, because he was an Auschwitz “veteran,” that is, he had spent a much longer time in the camp and “knew the ropes.” Dr Jaworski had to hold out for some time more and continue looking after fellow prisoners’ health despite his impaired capacity for work and the chronic pain in his knee. He decided not to evacuate and leave the camp on an evacuation transport. After the SS-men fled he was still there, staying on in very hard conditions and attending to 850 patients of different nationalities, until the arrival of the Soviet army physicians.

That’s when he left Auschwitz. He was very sick at the time, and was given hospitality by the parish priest of Poręba, a place in the neighbourhood. Unlike Dr Jaworski, Niedojadło left with one of the evacuation transports and managed to escape. On his way home in early February 1945, he met his friend in Poręba. It was one of those rare lucky chances (though of course not the most important one) that sometimes happened to Auschwitz prisoners.

Dr Jaworski stayed in the Parish of Poręba until August 1945, bedridden with tuberculosis of his left knee, which developed as a complication resulting from the injury he sustained in September 1939. He was taken to the Jagiellonian University hospital’s surgical clinic in Kraków and was sent to the Polish Red Cross sanatorium in Zakopane. In December 1945 he had an operation in Zakopane’s municipal hospital. He returned home to Warsaw in September 1946. Straight after his return he reported to the central board of the Union of War Invalids of the Republic of Poland,16 and was employed as a medical practitioner. He did not find his son in Warsaw because, as it soon turned out, the boy had fought in the combat during the Uprising17 and the Germans executed him when he was still under seventeen.

After the War Dr Jaworski resumed his professional and community work, notwithstanding his health problems; the operation had not brought him very much relief from the pain. He was employed by the Warsaw Health Department as an internist at the No. 2 district clinic in Żoliborz (he held the second degree specialist qualification for internal medicine). He also served as an adjudicating physician and deputy chairman of the Żoliborz health committee. He was closely involved in the work of the Union of War Invalids and ZBoWiD. He was also a member of several other medical committees. At the age of 75 he was still working part-time in the Żoliborz clinic.

A few words should be said about Dr Jaworski’s army career. He was promoted to the rank of major on 19 March 1937. His secret promotion to lieutenant-colonel ensued during the War and he was notified of it when he was in Auschwitz (the document was conveyed through the clandestine channel). He was promoted to colonel on the grounds of Personal Order No. 0357 issued by the Polish Minister of National Defence on 17 August 1968.

Dr Jaworski held numerous honours and distinctions, awarded both before and after the War. They included the Independence Cross, the Cross of Valour, the Silver Cross of Merit, the Gold Cross of Merit, the Life-Saver’s Medal, the Warsaw Medal, the Medal for Twenty Years of Service, the Freedom and Victory Medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Gold Badge of Honour of the Union of War Invalids of the People’s Republic of Poland, the Badge for Exemplary Work in the Health Service, the Grunwald Badge, the Millennium Badge,18 and several others – a total of 24 medals and distinctions.

However, the enduring memory of Dr Jaworski, especially in the memories of his friends from the resistance movement and in Auschwitz, is surely more valuable than all the medals and distinctions. He devoted the best part of his professional work and life experience to concentration camp survivors. Dr Jaworski’s most valuable achievement was the fact that he embodied the patriotic model of the soldier and medical practitioner holding out at his post in the most difficult situations for his country. He embodied this model despite his serious disability, in defiance of the pain and all the misfortunes that came his way.

***

Translated from original article: Kłodziński, S., Niedojadło, E. “Płk dr med. Czesław Wincenty Jaworski.” Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1977.


Notes
  1. Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, POW, the Polish Military Organisation – a secret pro-independence military organisation founded by Józef Piłsudski in 1914 and operating on the territory of the Russian zone of Partitioned Poland during the First World War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Military_Organisation
  2. On the restoration of Poland’s independence in 1918, after 123 years of non-existence as a sovereign state, the country had to fight several wars with neighbours for the demarcation of its borders, and presumably Dr Jaworski was called up to serve in one of them, probably the one against the Bolsheviks, who invaded Poland in 1920. This article was published during the period when Poland was in the Soviet sphere of influence, and for reasons of censorship it is not explicit why Dr Jaworski was called up at this time.
  3. Doctor Medicinae Universae (Doctor of General Medicine) was the official title of the degree awarded at the time in Poland to students graduating in medicine.
  4. Original name: Centrum Wyszkolenia Saperów w Modlinie
  5. Centralny Instytut Wychowania Fizycznego w Warszawie; now known as Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego Józefa Piłsudskiego w Warszawie (the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zef_Pi%C5%82sudski_University_of_Physical_Education_in_Warsaw
  6. Original name: Warszawski Okręg Korpusu.
  7. When Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and started the Second World War, the Poles defended their country, but as German troops occupied more and more Polish territory, the government and its central institutions were evacuated to the east of the country.
  8. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union, Germany’s ally at the time, invaded Poland from the east. The Red Army entered the city of Lwów (now L’viv, Ukraine) on23 September 1939.
  9. For more on Col. Strehl, see the English version of his biography on this website.
  10. The Polish union of war veterans, ZBoWiD, Związek Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację (the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy), the main Polish war veterans’ association under the People’s Republic.
  11. Armia Krajowa, AK (the Home Army), the largest underground resistance organisation in occupied Europe during the Second World War.
  12. For more on Ujazdowski Hospital, see the following articles on this website: Stanisław Bayer, “Episodes from the story of the hospitals of the Warsaw Uprising,” Bayer’s biographies of Col. Strehl and Dr Dobulewicz, and the biographies of Dr Lityński, Dr Perzanowska, and Nurse Kaniewska-Iżycka.
  13. During the Second World War the Germans used the Pawiak prison in Warsaw to detain, interrogate, and torture Polish resistance fighters and political prisoners.
  14. The German authorities occupying Poland caught people who happened to be out on the streets, rounded them up, and sent them to Germany for slave labour. About 2 million Polish citizens are estimated to have suffered this fate.
  15. For details of the resistance movement operating inside Auschwitz, see the official Auschwitz website at http://auschwitz.org/en/history/resistance/
  16. Original name: Związek Inwalidów Wojennych Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej
  17. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944, not to be confused with the Ghetto Uprising of the spring of 1943.
  18. Original names in order of occurrence: Krzyż Niepodległości, Krzyż Walecznych, Srebrny Krzyż Zasługi, Złoty Krzyż Zasługi, Medal za Ratowanie Ginących, Medal za Warszawę, Medal za Dwudziestoletnią Służbę, Medal Wolności i Zwycięstwa, Krzyż Oficerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski, Złota Odznaka Honorowa Związku Inwalidów Wojennych PRL, Odznaka za Wzorową Pracę w Służbie Zdrowia, Odznaka Grunwaldzka, and, Odznaka Tysiąclecia.

Notes by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa, Head Translator for the Medical Review Auschwitz project.

References

This potted biography has been compiled on the basis of the following materials:

  1. Czesław W. Jaworski’s personal documents (certificates and testimonials relating to his professional and social work, medals and decorations, army service, promotion certificates and orders, membership cards of various organisations, award documents, CVs, his verification chart, thank-you letters for his community work, and miscellaneous notes), to which we were given access by courtesy of his widow, Dr Zofia Jaworska;
  2. Czesław W. Jaworski, note submitted to the commission on the history of the medical sciences (undated typescript);
  3. Czesław W. Jaworski’s publications
  4. “Wspomnienia z Oświęcimia.” 1962. In Apel skazanych, Warszawa: PAX;
  5. “Początki organizacji Tajnej Wojskowej Służby Zdrowia.” 1969. In Pamiętnik II krajowego zjazdu lekarzy Związku Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację, Warszawa, dn. 28—29 maja 1968 r. Warszawa: PZWL, 525—529;
  6. “Początek konspiracji” (a letter to the editor). 1965. Polityka 15 (10 April 1965);
  7. A letter to the editor published in Wojskowy Przegląd Historyczny 1967: 3, 427.
  8. Statements and relations from survivors, including Dr Rudolf Diem, and the personal recollections of Stanisław Kłodziński and Eugeniusz Niedojadło.

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

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