08/02/2023 News

We mourn the passing of Karl Pajuk (1926–2023)

Karl Pajuk was born on 15 February 1926 in the village of Mazkiwzi in the western Ukrainian region of Khmelnytsky. As the son of Ukrainian peasants, he experienced the meaning of tyranny at an early age in the Soviet Union under Stalin, when his father spoke out against forced collectivisation and the family was subsequently exiled to northern Russia. In September 1942, after returning home, Karl was taken by Germans for forced labour in the Münden district. He was 16 years old. After a short time he tried to escape, but was arrested and transferred to the Neuengamme concentration camp in January 1943 via various detention centres and the Liebenau "labour education camp", where he had to work in a gun powder factory. Among other things, he had to work for the "Reichwerke Hermann Göring" in the Neuengamme subcamp Salzgitter-Drütte. At the end of the war, he survived the notorious Celle massakre and finally also the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

After the liberation, Karl fell seriously ill. He was finally drafted into the Red Army and returned home in 1950.

As difficult as it was for him, Karl Pajuk travelled to Germany again in later years for commemorative events, also to the Neuengamme concentration camp Memorial, and gave eyewitness talks for school students, most recently in 2019. At that time, in his speech concluding the commemorative event, he said: "May you not allow this misery that I and my comrades suffered" and presented the memorial with a painting that a school student had painted under the impression of an eyewitness talk with him and had given it to him. As reason why he made repeated trips to the places where he had to suffer at the hands of the Germans, he said: "The young people should listen to what I experienced and what the war meant. People should learn where the initial Hitler euphoria ended." (Rundbrief Stadtgeschichten, Salzgitter Memorial, October 2012)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 once again brought war to Karl Pajuk's homeland. In the same year, he was able to receive a small amount of support through the Aid Network for Survivors of Nazi Persecution in Ukraine. Karl Paiuk died in his Ukrainian homeland on 31 July 2023.

Karl Pajuk was a special person, charismatic, communicative and full of joie de vivre. All who knew him appreciated his warm-heartedness, his friendliness and his hearty laugh. He loved poetry and wrote some himself. He had a melodious voice and at the 2019 commemorative event at Neuengamem he impressively sang an Ukrainian song. We mourn with his family for a kind, humorous man.