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Halina Golczowa: The Night Shift

Info / context to the poem

After the head of the SS-Economic-Administrative Main Office, Oswald Pohl, announced in March 1942 that the labor force must be "exploited to the utmost possible limit so that labor can yield the greatest return," working hours at Ravensbrück increased from the original eight hours, six days a week, to eleven hours, seven days a week. In the final months of the war, two twelve-hour shifts were the norm in the armaments industry. Italian prisoner Lidia Beccia Rolfi testified, "Work takes place in two shifts: twelve hours for the day shift with a lunch break for soup, and twelve hours for the night shift with a quarter-hour break at midnight. Day and night, the slave girls work full time, with no breaks, not even for going to the latrine."

The poem "The Night Shift", written by Halina Golczowa in Ravensbrück in 1942/43 and smuggled out of the camp with other documents, probably refers to the inhumane working conditions in the SS-owned Texled factory ("Machines roar, Needle drags the thread, Sharp knife shines...") The workshops were located on the camp grounds. There, the women had to produce prisoners' clothing and uniforms for the Wehrmacht and SS, among other things.

Later, Halina Golczowa is transferred to the subcamp Neubrandenburg, where she has to produce parts for fighter planes. Due to the catastrophic living and working conditions, she falls ill with rheumatism and loses an eye. (C. Jaiser)

Author - biography

Halina Golczowa Halina Golczowa was born in Warsaw on September 20, 1901.

During World War II, she worked as a teacher in the Polish capital, occupied by Nazi Germany since September 1939, and was active in the underground. On September 23, 1941 - shortly after her fortieth birthday - she is deported from Warsaw's Pawiak Prison to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her husband is already dead by this time. Men of the Soviet secret service NKVD shot him in the massacre of Polish soldiers and officers in Katyn. Halina Golczowa has to leave her little daughter Zofia behind in Warsaw.

In Ravensbrück concentration camp, she is assigned prisoner number 7591. She makes an effort to secretly motivate young girls to learn, teaches them, and encourages them to hold on to their love for their Polish homeland. Later, the SS (Schutzstaffel, the Nazis' most important terror and oppression organization) deports her to Neubrandenburg, where she is forced to live in a subcamp of the Ravensbrück concentration camp and is forced to manufacture parts for fighter planes in the "Mechanische Werkstätten" factory. Due to the catastrophic living and working conditions at the forced labor and in the concentration camp, she falls ill with rheumatism and loses an eye.

Halina Golczowa survives thanks to the help of her fellow prisoners. She is able to return to her daughter in Poland, but goes completely blind after an eye operation. After the war, she becomes involved in Warsaw with the elderly and the returning "displaced" and "Ostheimkehrer" (homecomers from the East). She writes children's poetry, works for the children's magazines "Swierszczyk " (The Cricket) and "Piomyczek" (The Little Flame), among others, and publishes an entire volume of poetry. In the last years of her life she is cared for by Olga Dickman, her friend from her time in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Halina Golczowa dies of the late sequelae of camp imprisonment on October 22, 1963, at the age of 62. (C. Jaiser)

Images and documents

Jeanne Letourneau

L'appel avant le lever du jour
Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück
Signatur: SV817E2

Biographical data

The Night Shift (manuscript)

The poem was written by Halina Golczowa in Ravensbrück in 1942/43 and smuggled out of the camp with other poems and documents.
© Staatliches Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Recordings

The sound recordings were provided by Constanze Jaiser for Voices from Ravensbrück.

They were produced in the framework of:
RAA Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / zeitlupe | Stadt.Geschichte & Erinnerung (Hrsg.): „Aby świat się dowiedział…” / „Damit die Welt es erfährt…”
Eine Flaschenpost aus dem KZ Ravensbrück.
Polnische und deutsche Jugendliche lesen Gedichte, Briefe und Berichte.

CD-Produktion und Booklet: Jacob David Pampuch. In Kooperation mit der Regionalbibliothek Neubrandenburg.
© Waren; Neubrandenburg: RAA Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / zeitlupe | Stadt.Geschichte & Erinnerung, 2018