Janusz Pogonowski, born in Cracow in 1922, joined the Polish resistance after the German invasion in 1939 and was arrested the following year. On 14 June 1940, he was taken to Auschwitz, as part of the first transport of Polish political prisoners. He managed to send some secret letters from the camp to his family. In a letter on 25 September 1942, he described how two friends helped him through a grave illness. Ultimately, their support could not save him from the SS: Janusz Pogonowski was hanged in Auschwitz in summer 1943.

057 – Secret letter on prisoner solidarity in Auschwitz, 1942

For a long time while I have been living here I have felt lonely, very lonely. The great unhappiness I have experienced may not be the result of the hunger and difficulties that I have had to suffer here; it may not be simply the consequence of the material situation in which I found myself, but rather because I was so very alone. Sometimes, in the evenings when I had a moment to myself, I sat next to the wall and contemplated things. I have never before thought so intensively and seriously about a whole lot of things. […].

they really lifted my spirits

But I do have friends. There are two colleagues with whom I came here, one a year younger, the other two years older than me. I have found them to be true friends. They are there for me in good times and in bad. We have no secrets from one another; we never have doubts about each other. As you know, I was seriously ill. I have a lot to thank them for, but what I would like to emphasize again is that I don’t so much mean material help, though I certainly needed that, but, as far as they could, they really lifted my spirits. They didn’t allow me to have gloomy thoughts for a second; they stopped me from thinking about death. I was very aware of my vulnerable health; physically I was totally exhausted. The doctors had given me up for dead! But in terms of morale I was healthy, proud and tough.

Source: F. Piper (ed.), Illegale Briefe aus Auschwitz von Janusz Pogonowski (Oświęcim, 1999), pp. 21–4

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes