“It was shocking at first. I got chills all over my body,” Irene Jankowiak, who lives in Uppsala in central Sweden, told the TT news agency.
The name of her father, Bronislaw Jankowiak, stood atop a handwritten letter dated September 20th, 1944, which was found in a bottle uncovered when workers tore town the concrete wall of a school that at one time served as a bunker for guards at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Bronislaw arrived in Sweden in 1945 and settled in Åtvidaberg in south central Sweden. He died in 1997 without having spoken much about his time at Auschwitz.
“My mother, who has a similar background, was the storyteller in the family,” said Irene, who sees the message in the bottle as a message from the past.
She and her siblings have seen pictures of the letter, which has sparked headlines around the world, and recognized their father’s handwriting.
Irene told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, she believes it was her father who wrote the note.
The fact that Bronislaw spoke little of his time in Nazi concentration camps makes the discovery especially emotional, causing his daughter to reflect on how he may have reacted if he was still alive.
“I don’t know. He either would have shrugged his shoulders or burst into tears,” she told TT.
Some of the other men on the list are still alive. Frenchman Albert Veissid, whose name is at the bottom of the page, remembers the six Polish prisoners but didn’t recognize the bottle.
“It’s true I did them some favours. There was food supplied upstairs and they used to steal tubs of marmalade, which I would hide downstairs,” he told the AFP news agency.
The museum in Auschwitz is convinced of the letter’s authenticity.
“We’ve been able to confirm that the names are in our archives. But we don’t know the fate of each one yet,” said Auschwitz-Birkenau museum spokesperson Pawel Sawicki to TT.
He calls the discovery unique.
“We don’t have so many discoveries and this is the first time we’ve found a letter. The discovery is all the more symbolic because some of the men are still alive,” he said.
He hopes that the surviving former prisoners will have a chance to meet one day and maybe have a chance to explain their note.
“I hope so, it would be really exciting to see how things went,” said Irene Jankowiak.