In none of the blocks was education and learning pursued with more vigor than in the Polish blocks. Ilsa Vermehren, mercilessly objective when it came to discussing nationalities, including her fellow Germans (whom she mostly despised), judged that the Poles had an intellectual level unmatched by any other group in the camp.
The fact that the earliest transports from Poland were composed of many teachers undoubtedly contributed to this. They set a tone and a standard which were never relinquished or surpassed.
What distinguished the Polish educational effort from that of the other national groups was not only its scope and breadth, but also the fact that it was a system, not just a random offering of talks. Systems need organization and leadership, and this was provided early on by Helena Salska, an experienced educator, a Master (Magister) in history. Salska taught, but more important, she gave the program a sense of direction.
[.....]the list of subject areas taught (and the wide range of instructors) in the Polish underground educational system:
|Polish Language and Literature||Wińska, Bromowicz, Panakówna, Świebodzianka, Szartowska|
|Mathematics and Astronomy||Prof. Milewska, Modzelewska, Babińska-Dobrowlska|
|Cultural History, Education||Lanckorońska|
|French Language||Jordan, Krasicka|
The people who taught in these areas were well qualified, in many cases experienced teachers. In the winter of 1942, every morning between roll call and work call, a group of women met for half an hour in a corner of Block 15. There Urszula Wińska, a trained specialist in Polish studies, offered a course in Polish literature. At first, there were six participants, later twenty.
Irena Panenkowa's lecture on Socrates was so well received that she was asked to repeat it, and ended up giving it on five different occasions.
Polish teachers conducted lessons from memory, sometimes using sticks and dirt in place of chalk and blackboards.
They held discussions and study sessions. They granted no diplomas or degrees, but after the war Stanislawa Czajkowska was given credit for her second, third, and fourth classes in the Gymnasium (college preparatory high school) for the academic work she did at Ravensbrück.
More significantly, these programs helped to give the Polish women a feeling of camaraderie, a sense of purpose, and an awareness of their self-worth that was vital to their survival. (the above text comes from the book Ravensbrück : everyday life in a women's concentration camp by Morrison, Jack G.)