photo - Family archives
Zygmunt Starachowicz, a graduate of law at Krakow's Jagiellonian University (UJ), was caught up in the infamous Sonderaktion Krakau of November 1939, during which 183 academics were arrested by the occupying Nazi regime.
Some 144 of those arrested were professors from UJ, and all 183 were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin.
Franciszek Wasyl, an archivist at UJ, told the Polish Press Agency that the memoir is “the longest and most detailed description of the first four days of Sonderaktion Krakau from all those that have been made public to date.”
Dr Krzysztof Stopka said that the account includes “interesting profiles” of the detainees, noting that the author “superbly portrays the inmates and the relationships between them.”
As it was, the young Starachowicz was arrested owing to a stroke of ill fortune.
He happened to be in the university's central Collegium Novum building on 6 November 1939, as he was having a document signed certifying that he had passed his exams.
Owing to this coincidence, he was arrested with the other 182 academics.
Twenty of the detainees died as a result of the ordeal, but following international protests, the academics were released in two successive waves.
Zygmunt Starachowicz penned his account in early 1941. The memoir lay in an unopened envelope for seventy years, until it was discovered by members of his family.
As it was, following his release, the author cooperated with the underground, leading clandestine lectures in law and history, and forging documents for the official “Home Army” (AK), the official resistance force backed by the Polish government-in-exile in London.
He was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944, but the family is not certain of the precise circumstances of his death.
However, Katarzyna Starachowicz, his great-granddaughter, told the Rzeczpospolita daily that two versions have circulated, one that he was shot by the Nazis in Krakow's Montelupi prison, the other that he perished in a concentration camp.
Details of the memoir were released by UJ to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the arrests this month. The account is set to be published in full. (nh/pg)