|Birth: ||May 10, 1923|
|Death: ||Sep. 15, 1944|
Edward, who was known as Edek, was born in Wieckowice, Poland. Those who knew him said he was very handsome, brave, and manly, a person who was willing to take risks. Despite his youth, he served in the Polish Army after the Nazi invasion of his homeland. He was arrested as a political prisoner and taken to the Tarnów prison sometime after Poland fell to the Nazis. On 14 June 1940, he was one of 728 male Polish political prisoners who made up the first deportation to Auschwitz, which at the time was "only" being used as a camp for criminals and political prisoners, not Jews and Gypsies as well. Edek was assigned work as a mechanic, a line of work which brought him into contact with several civilians who were working on the camp's construction. His work as a mechanic also enabled him to have access to some of the sub-camps, among them the women's camp at Birkenau, where in late 1943 or early 1944 he met and shortly fell in love with Mala Zimetbaum, who worked as a messenger, a very privileged position that enabled her to save many, many lives. Just twenty years old at the time, Edek was over five years younger than Mala. At this point in time, Edek, in spite of his age, was also one of the camp elders, having the very low number of 531. Not very many people from that original transport, or any of the very early transports, were still alive by then. Mala and Edek had one of the few successful love relationships in the camp, with fellow inmates putting their lives on the line to let them secretly see one another (albeit with very little privacy or romantic atmosphere) and to keep the knowledge of the affair from the camp authorities. Mala also managed to give Edek a present once, a crayon drawing that her friend Zofja Stepien had made of her. (The drawing survived and is housed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum today.) Edek was making plans to escape from the camp, along with a friend (a fellow Polish political prisoner), and Mala begged to come along too. Edek agreed to the plan, but his friend wasn't so sure that three people could make it out together undetected. It was eventually decided that only Edek and Mala would escape. Edek managed to get hold of an S.S. uniform, and through her closest friends, Mala obtained a map of southern Poland, a work pass, and a dress she would wear under a pair of male overalls. On 24 June 1944, they successfully escaped and were not discovered missing till that evening. The three other messenger girls whom she had shared her quarters with refused to reveal anything, and were sent to the Penal Company as punishment.
Mala and Edek were recaptured on 6 July while attempting to cross the border into Slovakia, although stories abounded in the camp about how and where they'd been recaptured. Some said they had been caught at a bar, a café, a restaurant, or a hotel in Poland, while others maintain they were recaptured when they tried to pay for a restaurant or doctor's bill with gold. After their recapture, they were taken to a police station in Bielsko and positively identified the next day. They were held in separate cells in the notorious Block 11 upon their return to the camp. Although they were held in different cells, they sometimes whistled to one another down the hall, and sometimes Edek would stand by the window he believed to be Mala's and sing Italian arias to her. Edek also managed to carve their names on a number of cell walls in Block 11. Neither gave any names or information even after their interrogators started torturing them. To avoid implicating one another, they maintained they had escaped separately, wearing S.S. uniforms. The S.S. headquarters in Berlin gave their official approval to the death sentence that had been handed down by the camp authorities.
Various sources give varying dates for when the sentence was carried out, ranging from mid-July to 22 September. It seems as though the most likely dates were 22 August or 15 September. According to a surviving member of the camp's resistance, Edek was publicly hanged with five other men in the men's camp on the latter date. According to surviving witnesses, Edek tried to jump into the noose ahead of time, hoping to kill himself before the Nazis could, but was pushed back so the verdict could be read. His last words were said to be "Long live Poland." One of the inmates told the others to remove their caps as a sign of respect to their fallen comrade; when they did, one of the guards was enraged.
In 2005 and 2006, the United Kingdom-based Holocaust Project produced a play based on the lives of Edek and Mala, 'Mala and Edek—A Tale of Auschwitz.' The play toured at various locations around the U.K. and continental Europe.
Malka Zimetbaum (1918 - 1944)*
Specifically: Taken to the crematorium at Auschwitz
Created by: Carrie-Anne
Record added: Nov 26, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 16796215