"Escapes". Episode 8. The Escape of Dionyz Lénard
The eighth episode of the series about escapes from the Majdanek camp
"Escapes". Episode 8. The Escape of Dionyz Lénard.
Dionyz Lénard was born in 1912, in Budapest. He spent his childhood in Žilina, where his parents had moved shortly after World War I. The Lénard family emigrated to Palestine in 1930s. They were, however, arrested by the British police and deported to Czechoslovakia.
In the aftermath of the agreement signed between Slovakia and the Third Reich in 1942, the Slovakian Jews were subjected to mass deportations to the General Government [GG]. At that time, Lénard lived in Svätý Kríž nad Hronom. From there, he was taken to the transit camp in Novaki and ultimately deported to Konzentrationslager Lublin.
He was assigned to field I. He described the horridness of the living conditions at Majdanek in the following way:
“Considering how hard we work every day, with the food rations we receive, calling the prisoners undernourished would be an understatement. Drinking water? It would probably be easier to find it in Texas, or in the Egyptian desserts of Sudan than in the camp.”
Dionyz Lénard worked in several labour groups, including the Facharbeiter Kkommando that was responsible for the barracks construction works. “Our assignment was a good one, because during the day the SS-men came to us only 10 or 12 times a day. They would beat 15 to 20 people every time and leave. Each of us would receive some punches, that’s true, but the assignment wasn’t that bad after all.”
From the very beginning of his detention, Lénard was planning to escape. Saving himself was not his only goal. He believed that if he managed to escape and give an account about the situation of Jews in GG, he would persuade the remaining Slovakian Jews to avoid deportations at all cost. “I was thinking that even if I would never again see my parents or my fiancé, I would at least warn the Jews in Slovakia. That was my purpose.”
In early June 1942, Lénard’s labour group was erecting the barracks within field IV. A day before his planned escape, he hid some civilians clothes. He chose June 5, 1942 to fulfil his plan. During work, he hid underneath the unfinished barracks and remained there until nightfall. He ripped off his prisoner tags and labels, and carefully left towards the west. The area of the unfinished and uninhabited field IV, was not yet surrounded with barbed wires nor lighted at that time. Lénard, however, still had to avoid the guard posts set around the camp. “Having passed a couple of metres, I noticed the silhouettes of the guards in the distance. It were the Lithuanians, standing around 150 metres apart from each other. I feel on my knees and silently crawled through the short grass. In this way, I managed to bypass the sentry posts.”
Having left the area of the camp, Lénard went further west. During the first two days following his escape, he avoided civilians as he was afraid of being reported, and did not speak Polish. On the third day, he made an attempt to find some food. He introduced himself as a Hungarian who only tried to speak to the locals in Slovakian. Two young men provided learn with help – they fed him, taught him a few essential phrases in Polish, and advised him to move along the railway track leading to Rozwadów. A few days later, Lénard reached Tarnów, and finally crossed the GG-Slovakian border in the area of Piwniczna. He wrote down his testimony in late 1942. “In this way, after a 32-day-long journey from Majdanek camp in Lublin, I came to Slovakia. It was me, number 2838, and I am going to Hungary now” – these were the words Lénard finished his diary with.
For the next couple of months he was hiding in Bratislava. Because of a report, however, he was arrested and sent to the Sered concentration camp. He escaped in early 1944, but was arrested and again detained in Sered, then transferred to KL Sachsenhausen and KL Buchenwald. The last known document concerning the fate of Dionyz Lénard is a registry of patients issued on March 7, 1945 by the camp infirmary offices in Buchenwald. The exact date and place of his death remain unknown. It is likely that he died in Buchenwald shortly before the fall of the Third Reich.
Photografy by Dariusz Dybała