Remembering the Strength of Mothers and Children Inside Auschwitz

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The worst experience for me was missing my mother and the feeling that you are completely alone… and that was the most difficult.

-Lydia Maksymowicz

Lydia Maksymowicz, a child Survivor of Auschwitz explains what life was like in the concentration camp.

One of the most heartbreaking moments in her retelling of her story was about the pregnant women who gave birth to their babies and they were immediately taken from their mothers and either drowned or given a fatal injection.

She said she remembers vividly a women hand expressing her breastmilk on to a spoon and feeding it to her, understanding that if this milk could not be used to nourish her own infant who was taken from her and murdered, that it could help nourish the other children in the camp.

She remembers her own mother coming in to her barracks to try to give her food. She told her she didn’t want the much-needed food, but she wanted her to just stay with her, a request that was impossible given the circumstances.

I was left with gratitude that Lydia was willing to retell her story. What I feel I learned from it was the unimaginable strength of the women of Auschwitz which kept many children of the camp alive. I can’t imagine the strength that woman and the others like her must have had to lose their child in the most violent and inconceivable way, and still have the fortitude to press on and give to the other children who were still living, and suffering. I also cannot imagine the pain Lydia’s mother must have felt, who would have gladly starved to give her child her ration of food, yet in the moments they are allowed to be together, all she hears from her daughter is that she would gladly go hungry just to keep her near. And what strength Lydia had to be able to bear the burden of these memories, to realize she needed to leave with another woman after the liberation, knowing her mother was gone.

This is the strength of children and mothers that I pray none of us will ever have to witness in ourselves, but I cannot thank Lydia Maksymowicz enough for the way she has honored the past as well as given us a lesson about motherhood and humanity.

6 comments

  1. I am moved to tears & overwhelmed by emotions while reading this most unusual breast feeding story. All too strong emotions that words to describe them escape me while I seem to be transposed briefly into the midst of that desolate most inhumane period of this humanity. As I open my eyes from that momentary dazed, I am even more convinced in my belief that collective strength & support for one another helps us to persevere through the worst & most difficult times of our lives! Whether we come out of the experience professing our transformed self believing in the goodness of humanity OR hating it & it’s evilness! It is apparent that Ms. Lydia chose to exalt the goodness of each one of us in spite of the horror she had experienced! To her & those who like her had gone through this & those who are currently going through inhumane treatments brought about by individuals or regimes with power, my utmost respect & earnest sympathy!

  2. I really dislike reading such heartbreaking stories, except that it puts my worries into perspective. I know I would do the same if in these women’s circumstances, I hope I never need to. Knowing about their horrific experiences makes me want to honour them in how I conduct myself daily.
    Thank you.

  3. I love the way your blog is evolving. You’ve found your storytelling voice and these stories are so important to tell. xo S

  4. It is so important that these stories are told & heard. We must never forget them.

  5. This has put me into a deep contemplation of how we live in such an unfriendly world. I reflect, as well on my humanity and gratitude . I love you for you Michelle, and am grateful for your words. So much love to you!

  6. Such an incredible survivor! Thank you for sharing her story!

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