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Ex-Auschwitz 'barber' dies aged 95

Published 30/04/2015

Former Auschwitz prisoner Jozef Paczynski has died aged 95 (AP)
Former Auschwitz prisoner Jozef Paczynski has died aged 95 (AP)

Jozef Paczynski, a Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz who became the personal barber to camp commander Rudolf Hoess, has died aged 95.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum confirmed today that Paczynski died on Sunday in the nearby city of Krakow, where he lived.

Mr Paczynski was among the first prisoners of Auschwitz and one of the prisoners to survive there the longest. He was among a group of Polish Prisoners of War transported to the camp in 1940 by the Germans.

Upon arrival he was tattooed with the prisoner number 121 and was assigned to a barber shop for the SS men.

One day, Hoess ordered Mr Paczynski to come to his home to trim his hair. He was apparently satisfied because he had Mr Paczynski return many times after that.

Mr Paczynski recalled in a lecture in Krakow earlier this year that he was terrified when he was brought to cut Hoess's hair.

"My voice was shaking, my hands were shaking and my legs were shaking," he said.

For decades after his release he was repeatedly asked why he did not use his sharp tools to kill the man responsible for over a million deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

His answer: It would not have stopped the killing, but would have meant certain death for himself and many others.

"I thought about it," he said in January this year. "But when I realised what the consequences would be I simply could not do it."

Mr Paczynski, who remained at Auschwitz until January 18, 1945, was among a group that the Nazis moved out just days before the Soviet army liberated the camp, and was later freed by US soldiers in Germany.

He said he never witnessed any brutality by Hoess, who developed and oversaw the implementation of gas chambers where over a million Jews and others were murdered. Hoess was tried by Polish authorities after the war and was sentenced to death by hanging in 1947. The sentence was carried out at Auschwitz next to a crematorium.

After the war, Mr Paczynski became a mechanical engineer and an educator. In 2001 he was honoured with the Commander's Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland.

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