When Stanisława Leszczyńska completed her midwifery degree never could she have imagined the impact it would have or the legacy it would leave. She was a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz and she tended to thousands of women as the camp’s midwife. Stanislawa delivered over 3000 babies in the concentration camp and defied orders given to her by those in charge to euthanise any new borns every single day. Rather incredibly, she managed to never kill a baby, despite the daily pressure from guards and the fact that she would certainly be punished by death if she was caught. Such an incredible feat has resulted in her being an official candidate for canonisation (sainthood) by the Catholic church.
Leszczyńska was born in Lodz, Poland, to a carpenter father and a factory worker mother. The family moved to Rio De Janeiro briefly. They were in in the City of God for just two years, moving back to Poland in 1910. Stanislawa finished her studies over the next few years and enrolled in the midwifery college in Warsaw in ten years later in 1920. She graduated in 1922 with the Alumnae Achievement Award and returned to her hometown, Lodz. Here she led a quiet life right up until the Nazi invasion of Poland in September, 1939. Like millions of other Poles, this completely changed her and her family’s life.
After the Nazis invaded Poland, Stanislawa, along with her husband and four children were forced to relocate to a new house in the Lodz ghetto. This was a dyer section of the town which had been established by the Nazi invasion administration to specifically house and guard Jews. True to her caring nature, Stanislawa and her family helped ghettoed Jews whilst living here. They delivered food parcels, clothes and even forged documents to enable people to escape. Stanislawa was caught red-handed with false papers and was brought to the Gestapo on February 18th, where she was arrested along with her three youngest children. The two sons who were caught with her were promptly sent to work in the quarries at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Stanislawa’s husband had what appeared to be a stroke of luck and managed to escape to the city with their oldest son. This luck was short-lived, however, and both her husband and son were killed in the Warsaw Uprising not long after. Stanislawa and her husband never saw each other again after her arrest. After severe interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo, Stanislawa and her daughter were eventually sent to Auschwitz.
They were both transported to the infamous concentration camp on April 17th. On arrival, they were both registered to work in the camp’s maternity ward – daughter Sylwia was studying medicine before her arrest. It was in the maternity ward where Stanislawa met and was under the watchful eye of the abominable Dr. Josef Mengele, SS officer and Nazi physician who notoriously chose which prisoners got sent to be exterminated in the gas chambers. He also performed savage and often deadly human experiments on the prisoners in the camp. The authorities at Auschwitz never expected any babies to survive the pregnancy term whilst in the camp and they certainly didn’t think they would ever survive the birth. Needless to say they were left completely stunned – and furious – to learn that after reading report, Stanislawa had not lost a single baby during childbirth since arriving at the camp. It was because of this Dr. Mengel ordered Stanislawa to euthanise any newborns that were delivered in Auschwitz and through gritted teeth he commended Stanislawa on her skills as a midwife, regardless of the inconvenience it caused him. Instead, she would hide the babies in a bundle of wraps and put them out of sight under the mothers’ rough blankets. The usual practice, as described by Stanislawa herself, was to take the brand new babies immediately to the room next door and drown them in a barrel. This was done by the camps other midwife Schwester Klara, who prior to the war was actually arrested for infanticide whilst working as a midwife in a Polish hospital.
In stark contrast to the brutality of Schwester Klara, Stanislawa tried her utmost to create a homely and nurturing environment for the soon-to-be mothers to give birth in. For example, she insisted that the beds in the women’s barracks that were closest to the stove must be used for women in labour because they were the warmest. She also barely slept, choosing to stay up with her patients and sooth them in any way that she could, earning the nickname ‘Mother’ of her patients.
The sad fact remains that despite Stanislawa’s best efforts, of the 3000+ babies she delivered the huge majority of babies did not make it. It is estimated that 2500 of those that were delivered did not survive past infancy. In the later years of the war, babies that were born with blue eyes were shipped away from the camp to be ‘Germanised. This means that a total of just 30 babies that were delivered by the hands of Stanislawa managed to survive beyond the camps liberation. (1).
Stanisława remained the camp’s midwife until it was liberated on January 26, 1945.
After the camp was liberated, Stanislawa moved back to Łódź where she was joined by her other children who had been sent to labour camps. She continued to work as a midwife after the war and prayed for the children she delivered in Auschwitz that didn’t survive every day of her life. On January 27, 1970 an official celebration was held for her in Warsaw where she got to meet the female prisoners of Auschwitz, and their grown-up children, all of whom she had delivered in the concentration camp. She died four years after this event in 1974.
(1)  Matthew M. Anger (2005-01-04). “Midwife at Auschwitz: The Story of Stanislawa Leszczynska”. Seattle Catholic. Retrieved 2015-06-21.