Auschwitz, 21st March 1942. At the concentration camp the SS guard Franz Wunsch is turning 20 years old. Wunsch is a survivor from the Eastern Front, wounded by a bullet  on his knee.

Below: Franz Wunsch:

Allocated to the camp, his anti-Semitic hatred was already resounding inside its borders; the man was in charge of selecting and managing the arrival of the deportees which were incessantly coming from all parts of Europe through the trains of death. During the celebration of his birthday as well as his allocation to the “Canada”compartment, one of the deportees, doomed to the gas chamber, was singing for cheering up the event.

Her name is Helena Citronova, and the officer falls deeply in love

Helena was a 22 years old girl of Hebrew origin coming from Slovakia. Romance amongst an Jew bound to the gas chamber and a SS guard was not only severely forbidden but also utterly against any sort of idealistic logic that both of them were used to imagining.

On the 21st of March, Helena should have already met her tragic destiny by inhaling the Zyklon B. However, the intervention of Franz spared her from death and the young woman came back to her dormitory unaware of the risk escaped. Helena though receives a pack of biscuits with a note attached to it:

“I fell in love with you”

That was an impossible love, the Nazi beast cannot be loved. He can’t be desired, but only be hated. But, in order to secure a bit of protection, Helena faked a hint of affection, even though she could not even look at him, even though the hate towards the oppressor is impossible to forget. The relationship between the two carries on though and saves first Helena from the gas chamber then her sister Rožinka, that makes use of the handy lover so that she stay alive.

In Auschwitz between 1,100,000 and 1,500,000 people passed through. Only 7,000 deportees survived the tyranny of the Nazi regime and two of those were Helena and her sister, after 3 years of imprisonment inside the camp

Wunsch askes Helena to give him her sister’s name. He managed to go to her rescue before the homicide was committed, stating he was in urgent need of her as a worker in the department that he was in charge of.

For Rožinka’s 2 children it was too late though

Helena, her sister Rožinka and one of the 2 children

Over time something happened, Franz changed. He wasn’t anymore the loveless beast blinded by the hatred to Jews; he becomes human, switched on my the forbidden love he feels for Helena. The winters pass by and the woman gets infatuated by Wunsch too, and together they spend 3 years in the lowest hellish circle that mankind has ever made up. They fall in love with each other despite the load of corpses laying down beneath their feet don’t seem to slow down.

On the 27th of January 1945 the Red Army arrived to the camp, but Franz had already run away, escaping his trial like many other guards like him. Helena got released along with a few other survivors. The woman together with her sister came back to Slovakia by foot, where she got attacked by the soldiers of the Red Army that try to rape her.

By showing her tattoo of the identification number from Auschwitz she managed to prevent the rape from happening

Franz and Helena in the meantime lost each other and did not meet up for a long time. 16 years later though, on the 25th of August 1971, Franz Wunsch was arrested in Vienna and had his trial followed  between the 25th of April and the 27th of June 1972.  During that time Helena was summoned as a witness. Despite the favourable words of the woman, the ex SS guard was condemned for the homicides he had perpetrated. However, eventually, Franz was cleared of all charges due to the long time it had passed from when the crimes had been carried out (verdict called LG Vienna 20 Vr 3805/64).

Belo: Franz with some other companions

The two ex lovers never met anymore, probably without forgetting those conflicting feelings they had felt for each other in those long 3 years. Helena relocated to Israel where she died at the age of 83 in 2005, whereas Franz perished in Germany in 2009 when he was 87. Both of them were mentioned in the book “Auschwitz. The Nazis and the Final solution”, by Laurence Rees, and its namesake BBC documentary

Below: In this video Helena was briefly interviewed about her story

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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