Tarnów woman dubbed ‘Guardian Angel of Auschwitz’ to be made saint for helping death camp inmates
A woman dubbed the ‘Guardian Angel of Auschwitz’ is set to become a saint in the Catholic church after the Vatican gave the green light for local church authotities to start her canonisation process.
Stefania Łącka’s elevation is linked to the heroic and selfless help she gave to other prisoners during her incarceration in Auschwitz.
After being deported to the camp on 27 April 1942 and given camp number 6886, she helped fellow prisoners by spending hours holding the hands of the dying and baptising many new-borns before they were murdered by camp staff.
The event in Łącka’s camp biography that stands out took place when she was waiting in a line up to find out who would be killed as a punishment for an escape attempt by other prisoners.
Next to her was Helena Panek, who was terrified that the Germans would select her for death.
Łącka whispered to her: "Do not worry, Helenka, if they read your number, I will step out of the line - you are healthy and you should survive."
Father Jan Marszałek, who has collected testimonies and documents about Łącka, wrote that in that act of selflessness she "reached the heights of total self-sacrifice to God, she reached the peaks of heroism".
Łącka spoke German well, which allowed her to become the block scribe when she was transferred to Birkenau. She used her position to protect sick women condemned to death by secretly swapping files or crossing them off from lists of people selected to be murdered by phenol injection.
Aniela Turecka-Wajda recalled after the war: “She crossed me off the list of people to be lethally injected, risking her own life.”
Łącka ended up in Auschwitz after being arrested by the Gestapo on 16 April 1941 for underground activity. She spent a year in a prison in Tarnów, where she was brutally interrogated and tortured.
During the interrogations, her front teeth were knocked out, her hair was pulled out of her head, and she was pushed down the stairs several times. In spite of this, she did not denounce any of her collaborators involved in the underground.
She managed to escape from Auschwitz in January 1945 while the camp was being evacuated. She returned home and enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków to study Polish language.
However, due to exhaustion and illness she died a year later. In accordance with her wishes, she was buried in the cemetery in Gręboszów, next to her mother.
She was born nearby in Wola Żelichowska in 1914. From childhood she was involved in the religious life of her parish and was also active in the scouts.
After graduating from the Catholic teachers' College in Tarnów, she became an editor at a Catholic weekly magazine in Tarnów for five years.
In Tarnów, two committees have been established, theological and historical, to thoroughly analyse the life of Łącka before the next stage of her canonisation.
The committees will gather accounts from her time in the camp, letters and documents as well as her letters and published work.