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A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps
A daughter’s account of her mother’s wartime experiences and postwar struggle to rebuild her life

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ISBN: 9780806151915

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A daughter’s account of her mother’s wartime experiences and postwar struggle to rebuild her life
Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, known as Jadzia (Yah’-jah), was a young Polish Catholic physician in Lódz at the start of World War II. Suspected of resistance activities, she was arrested in January 1944. For the next fifteen months, she endured three Nazi concentration camps and a forty-two-day death march, spending part of this time working as a prisoner-doctor to Jewish slave laborers. A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps follows Jadzia from her childhood and medical training, through her wartime experiences, to her struggles to create a new life in the postwar world.
Jadzia’s daughter, anthropologist Barbara Rylko-Bauer, constructs an intimate ethnography that weaves a personal family narrative against a twentieth-century historical backdrop. As Rylko-Bauer travels back in time with her mother, we learn of the particular hardships that female concentration camp prisoners faced. The struggle continued after the war as Jadzia attempted to rebuild her life, first as a refugee doctor in Germany and later as an immigrant to the United States. Like many postwar immigrants, Jadzia had high hopes of making new connections and continuing her career. Unable to surmount personal, economic, and social obstacles to medical licensure, however, she had to settle for work as a nurse’s aide.
As a contribution to accounts of wartime experiences, Jadzia’s story stands out for its sensitivity to the complexities of the Polish memory of war. Built upon both historical research and conversations between mother and daughter, the story combines Jadzia’s voice and Rylko-Bauer’s own journey of rediscovering her family’s past. The result is a powerful narrative about struggle, survival, displacement, and memory, augmenting our understanding of a horrific period in human history and the struggle of Polish immigrants in its aftermath.
So writes Julian Kulski a few days before the outbreak of World War II, in this remarkable diary of a boy at war from ages 10 to 16. As the war unfolds through his eyes, we are privileged to meet a rare soul of indomitable will, courage and compassion.
Kulski, the son of the Deputy Mayor of Warsaw, is a 10-year-old Boy Scout when the Germans invade Poland in September 1939. He soon begins waging his own private war against the Germans with small acts of sabotage. At age 12, Kulski is recruited into the clandestine Underground Army by his Scoutmaster and begins training in military tactics and weapons handling. At 13, he accompanies his commander on a secret mission into the Warsaw Ghetto to liaise with the leaders of the Jewish Resistance.
Arrested by the Gestapo at age 14, Kulski is incarcerated in the notorious Pawiak Prison, beaten, interrogated at Gestapo headquarters, and sentenced to Auschwitz. After being rescued, he joins the Ninth Commando Company of the Underground Army, and at age 15 fights in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
Taken prisoner by the Germans, 16-year-old Kulski ends the war in a POW camp, finally risking a dash for freedom onto an American truck instead of waiting for "liberation" by the Soviets.

Barbara Rylko-Bauer holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University. She has published several books, and her articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, American Anthropologist, and Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
  • Softcover 400 pages
  • 28 b&w illus., 4 maps
  • 2014
  • Size 6" x9.25" - 15.5cm x 23.5cm

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