Her narrow, stern face, which didn't seem to go with her friendly nature at all, was one of the best known from Auschwitz.

Zofia Posmysz, born in nearby Kraków in 1923, was an inmate of the extermination camp as "number 7566" and survived the camp by 77 years.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

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When the “Spiegel” recently did a large-format portrait of some living former prisoners, it also showed them.

Yes, she could be friendly and warm-hearted: German visitors, German music?

With pleasure!

Just come into the cozy two-room apartment in Warsaw, where little reminds us of the time of the world war - except for the fact that the house itself stands on the site of the former ghetto.

Posmysz was arrested in 1942 for possession of anti-Nazi leaflets.

As one of the non-Jewish prisoners, she survived the camp, partly thanks to a Polish camp doctor, partly thanks to the fact that after a period of hard labor she was employed as a "clerk" in the camp administration.

Many years after Auschwitz and Ravensbrück, as a journalist for Polish Radio in Warsaw, she set about working through this time in radio reports and radio plays.

In 1970 she wrote the novel "Urlaub an der Adria", which, like several of her works, was translated into German.

survival strategies in the camp

It revolves around the camp friendship between two female prisoners and their survival strategies and does not so much accuse the perpetrators, the camp guards, but rather wants to explore the behavior of the victims.

This was misunderstood in communist Poland as a trivialization of Nazi terror and held up to the author.

However, Posmysz was most famous for the sensitive subject matter of “Passengerin”: The main characters are the German SS woman Lisa and “her” Polish prisoner Marta.

The chance meeting of both of them on an ocean liner, long after Auschwitz, is the setting in which the memory of the concentration camp opens up.

Later, the great Andrzej Munk took on the subject, first for Polish television, then for the cinema - Munk's last film remained unfinished due to the accidental death of the director.

Mieczysław Weinberg, the composer who was born in Warsaw and died in Moscow in 1996, wrote an opera of the same name in the 1960s.

At first, Posmysz did not believe that an Auschwitz opera, as she put it, could “succeed”.

Banned in the Soviet Union, the “Passenger” premiered in Bregenz in 2010.

For Posmysz herself, her most valuable memento was a piece of metal: a medallion made illegally by fellow inmates.

It shows the head of Christ and on the back the words "Oświęcim (Auschwitz) 1943".

Tadeusz Paolone, who was later shot dead, had given it to the young woman.

This incident comes to light in the text "Christ of Auschwitz".

At her own request, Zofia Posmysz spent her last weeks in the hospice in the city of Oświęcim, which was set up by a fellow prisoner.

There she died on Monday shortly before her ninety-ninth birthday, visited and cared for by friends until the end.