In the autumn of 1973, Stanisław Kłodziński, a doctor and former Auschwitz prisoner (number 20019), sent a questionnaire out to 561 Auschwitz survivors. His survey related to the dreams they experienced during their incarceration, but also those they dreamt many years after their ordeal was over – some dreamt of Auschwitz almost every night following release. Dr Kłodziński's appeal was answered by 147 former inmates.

Why did Auschwitz survivors continue to dream unwanted dreams so many years following rescue?

Many of these dreams were written up hurriedly, as if in spite of themselves, ignoring grammar and punctuation rules. Dreams in a cruel way stood history's guard. Not letting survivors forget, often terrorising and persecuting them still. In spite of their wishes, they demanded they not be forgotten.

Witold Pilecki termed Auschwitz in his reports as “non-Earth”. He wrote that all the functions performed by people – eating, arguing, running, standing out in the sun, walking with baby buggies; relate to life on Earth. Meanwhile, the camp was “non-Earth”. He intentionally got himself arrested in order to get into and learn more about Auschwitz, defining his mission as the creation of an army organisation. One of the fundamental aims of the newly created group was “keeping his friends' spirits up”.  He often stressed that without emotional and psychological support, without connection and community, surviving this “non-Earth” was impossible.

People often told stories, passed down knowledge, sharing that which was to survive. They sat together, creating the space in which stories could be told. In a community understood in this way, the listener was just as important as the one doing the telling, for they were the ones charged with the responsibility of nurturing and passing on the experiences of others.

Perhaps then it is not through forgetting that healing flows. 

Will you listen with me to unwanted dreams?

UN/WANTED DREAMS is an installation dedicated to the dreams dreamt by former  KL Auschwitz concentration camp inmates. This artwork is co-created by artists who have been invited to take part in the project – they will read the dreams throughout the night. Dreams will be read in German, Polish and English. The project has been prepared to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, as well as the opening of the Witold Pilecki Institute in Berlin.



Direction: Monika Grochowska
Text: dreams dreamt by former KL Auschwitz inmates — Anonymous (inmate no. 3xx), Anonymous (inmate no. 447xx), Aglaida Brudkowska, Janina Czerwiec-Dzierżymirska, Karol Dymiński, Józef Glazer, Zbigniew Giżyński, Władysław Koszyk, Jan Liwacz, Felicja Piekarska, Zygmunt Podhalański, Kazimierz Tokarz, Alfred Skrabania, Helena Stypulczak, Kazimierz Sowa, Zenon Szokalski and literary dreams — Joanna Bator, Sylwia Chutnik, Monika Powalisz
Performing: Mariusz Bonaszewski, Beata Fudalej, Agnieszka Grochowska, Ariel Nil Levy, Maria Maj, Mareile Metzner, Sean Palmer, Juliane Torhorst
Éxquartet – musicians from the Szczecin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra: Monika Sawczuk (I violin), Łukasz Górewicz (II violin), Grzegorz Sadowski (viola) , Tomasz Szczęsny (cello)
Dramaturgy: Monika Grochowska, Artur Pałyga
Music: Marcin Macuk
Scenography: Anna Czarnota
Lighting direction: Katarzyna Łuszczyk
Head of production: Anna Piekarska-Szczerba
Associate producers: Jakub Świetlik, Anna Bobczuk, Małgorzata Gąsiorowska, Marcin Jaworowicz, Hanna Radziejowska, Zuzanna Stankiewicz
Tech, video: Media Service, Tengent Studio
Production: Pilecki Institute
Inspiration: Hanna Radziejowska
Translations: Marek Kazmierski, Esther Kinsky, Małgorzata Hoc
Special thanks: Dr. Piotr Cywiński, Auschwitz Birkenau Museum, Dorota Serwa and the Szczecin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra

fot. Bartek Warzecha

See also