Anniversaries & holidays

Signet ring of a prisoner who walked in the Death March: Holocaust History Written by Objects

Sygnet więźnia z marszu śmierci
Sygnet więźnia z marszu śmierci, fot. Przemysław Jaczewski

Krystyna Sigalin was a daughter of Roman and Hanna Sigalin. Roman was drafted to the Polish Army before September 1939; during the war he was taken captive by the Soviets and perished in Katyń.

After two wartime years spent in Lwow, Hanna and Krystyna moved to Warsaw where they were forced to reside within the ghetto area. Towards the end, they were even taken to the Umschlagplatz, but they managed to avoid deportation after Hanna had shown her ausweis of a factory worker.

Having escaped from the ghetto, they hid separately – Hanna had the so-called ‘bad look’ and did not want to imperil her teenage daughter. On the ‘Aryan’ side, Krystyna was looked after by her pre-war nanny, Feliksa Szulc.

Since 1943, Krystyna and Feliksa resided in Mokotów, with the Górkiewicz family. Feliksa worked as their child’s nanny. The family surely knew that Krystyna was of Jewish origin. They stayed there until the fall of the Warsaw Uprising; then, along with a number of Warsaw civilians, they were sent to labour in Germany. Feliksa introduced Krystyna as her own daughter. They ended up in Pulitz, where they worked in the fields.

In the last days of war, prisoners of the concentration camps - hurriedly liquidated by the Germans in the areas gradually occupied by the Red Army - were passing by their barracks. Some prisoners managed to sneak out unobserved from the group during the so-called Death Marches. Several of them hid in the woodshed.

One day, one of them gave Krystyna a metal signet ring. He had made it himself, at the time he had been working at a munition plant. Krystyna never understood why he had done so – it was the only object in the Death March prisoner’s possession, other than a can for found food (mostly grass).

She returned to Warsaw together with Feliksa already in May 1945. She found Hanna as well as her uncle, Józef Sigalin. In 1969, Krystyna together with her husband Chajkiel Pajes, mother Hanna and son emigrated from Poland to Sweden.

In 2002, she went to Brandenburg to visit the Death March Museum to commemorate the prisoner.

COME AND SEE. The signet ring is available for viewing at the exposition at the POLIN Museum Resource Centre >>