Jan Komski - Auschwitz Paintings by Survivor

Photo taken an hour after Komski’s arrival in Andrzej Harat’s house after his escape from Auschwitz.
From left: Mieczyslaw Januszewski, Jan Komski (standing), Otto Küsel, Boleslaw Kuczbara, Andrzej Harat and his daughter Wladyslawa Harat.

Jan Komski's Story - Prisoner number: 564
Jan Komski’s Story – Prisoner number: 564

Like many of the young men in early months of the war, Jan Komski, a Polish Roman Catholic, was arrested on the Poland/Czechoslovakia border attempting to reach the newly formed Polish Army in France.

He was carrying false identity papers under an assumed name of Jan Baras. He was first taken to the prison at Tarnow and then sent to Auschwitz, arriving there, along with 727 other Polish men, on June 14, 1940.

It was the very first prisoner transport to arrive in Auschwitz. The prisoners were given numbers 31 -758. Mr. Komski was given number 564. These early numbers were not tattooed on prisoners’ arms, a lucky thing.

After two and one half years in the camp, Jan Komski and three comrades, Mieczyslaw Januszewski, Boleslaw Kuczbara, and Otto Küsel, participated in one of the most famous escapes in the history of that infamous camp.

This escape was significant because it was among the first to be organized by the illegal camp resistance movement, and with the help of the local population.

Mr. Komski eventually reached the city of Krakow, where he was arrested in a routine roundup as he was sitting on a train awaiting departure for Warsaw. Any escaped prisoner would have been hanged very soon after his return to Auschwitz. But Komski was not recognized and his identity papers now bore a different name.

Jan Komski painting


Mr. Komski was eventually sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, then back to Krakow for interrogation, than to another camp in Poland, Gross Rosen. From there he was shipped to Sachsenburg and then finally Dachau. General Patton’s boys liberated that camp on May 2, 1945.

After the war, Mr. Komski immigrated to the USA, became a US citizen, and worked for the Washington post as an illustrator for many years. At 86, he is painting every day and, weather permitting, walks every day as well.

Mr. Komski passed away in 2002, at the age of 87. Till his last days, he remained alert, lively, very courteous and caring of others.


All Auschwitz paintings and art in this exhibit are copyright © Auschwitz Museum and Jan Komski. All rights reserved.