An Auschwitz Forbidden Romance Story

Posted on May 28th, 2016 by:

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 An Auschwitz Forbidden Romance Story

In 1942, Helena Citrónová arrived in Auschwitz. She came from Slovakia, a country that declared its independence from Czechoslovakia when the Nazi’s divided the country.



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Helena Citrónová

Helena worked in Auschwitz II, called Birkenau, in the section of the camp where baggage from arriving inmates was sorted for valuables. The area was called “Kanada” since Canada was thought to be a land of riches.  Most of the inmates working in Kanada were women and it was one of the best places to be in all of Auschwitz. The women  got better food and were not beaten, they were allowed to grow their hair and could grab things to eat they found among the belongings.

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Franz Wunsch

One day, Helena was chosen to sing for the twentieth birthday of an Austrian SS man named Franz Wunsch. Doing anything before an SS man was dangerous, so Helena made sure she sang as best she could to please him. Later, while Helena was working, Franz threw down a piece of paper to her. Helena destroyed it right away but saw the word “love” written on the note. Helena’s first thought was that she would rather die than be with an SS man, but after thinking about it, she realized that it was easy to die in a place like Auschwitz and if she wanted to live, she would have to make a hard decision.

The two began an affair.  At first, Helena could not bring herself to look at Wunsch, but over time her feelings began to soften. Wunsch was described as a brutal “Jew hater” but when he fell in love with Helena Citrónová, something inside him changed as well. Wunsch later claimed his desire for her changed his brutal behavior.



Wunsch gave Helena food, and protected her from the dangers of life in Birkenau. Later, Helena’s sister Rozinka and her two children arrived at Auschwitz and Helena learned they were to be gassed. Wunsch told Helena to tell him her sister’s name before it was too late and then he ran across the camp finding Rozinka Citrónová right before she went into the gas chamber. Wunsch could not save Rozinka’s two children but saved Rozinka with a lie claiming she was a member of his work detail.

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Wunsch on left and Oskar Gröning on right. Oskar Gröning was recently put on trial for his crimes at Auschwitz

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Helena and Rozinka Citrónová

For the rest of the war, Wunsch continued to protect Helena as well as her sister Rozinka. When she was with Wunsch, Helena at times forgot that she was a Jew and he was an SS man. Helena claimed she eventually came to love Franz, and through his help both she and her sister survived the war.

When the war ended, the SS guards fled and Helena and Rozinka faced a terrorizing ordeal as they made their way home with other displaced persons through an Eastern Europe filled with raping and murderous Russian soldiers. The two girls escaped being raped since Rozinka claimed to be Helena’s mother and defended her.

Eventually, Helena moved to Israel while her wartime lover, Franz Wunsch returned to Austria. In 1972, Wunsch was put on trial for his crimes at Auschwitz and Helena and her sister testified on his behalf. Wunsch was eventually acquitted due to the statute of limitation laws in Austria. Helena Citrónová died in 2005 and Franz Wunsch died in 2009. The two remain one of the most unusual stories of love to come out of the Holocaust.



For More Reading Check Out:

Roses in a Forbidden Garden; A Holocaust Love Story


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3 thoughts on “An Auschwitz Forbidden Romance Story

  • Peter Kubicek says:

    Working in Auschwitz in the Block where female prisoners opened suitcases of recent arrivals and sorted clothes according to their size, separating men’s from women’s clothes etc.
    was such an amazingly good job that the Block was called “Kanada” not “Canada” as you write above. By an unwritten law, the women working in Kanada could keep and consume the food found in the luggage. They could smuggle some of the food out of Kanada and share with their friends. Same went for clothes. For instance a woman could put silk blouse under her clothes and then present it to her “Blockaelteste.” The latter were prisoners who were in charge of a barracks, job that with which came a lot of power. They assigned bunks to the ordinary prisoners, distributed the daily ration of lunch and dinner. As a former prisoner myself I can tell you what what rations we received. For lunch we got a bowl of turnip soup; for dinner another bowl of turnip soup. With dinner we also received our daily ration of bread : a piece of bread about the width of three fingers.

    If a Blockaelteste favored you, she or he, had the power to give an extra ration of soup or of bread.

    1. admin says:

      Thank you for the correction and your valuable personal insight!

  • Peter Kubicek says:

    Well, while I was never a prisoner in Auschwitz, I knew a couple of women who survived by working in “Kanada.” From them I heard about the benign conditions of Kanada which were what I call, “a passport to survival.”
    I myself am a survivor of six concentration camps in Germany.

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