In the summer of 1942, a Polish baker's assistant named Stefan Kossinsky penned a letter to his lover Willi, an officer in the Nazi army. "I'm just true to you and will remain so for my whole life," he wrote. "Please write to me as quickly as possible so I can be reassured.
Kossinsky doesn't know whether Willi ever read the letter. But the Gestapo did.
Kossinsky spent three years in a concentration camp--for expressing his love for another man.
The 72-year-old resident of Warsaw, Poland, bitterly recalled the ill-fated, 10-month affair during a visit to Harvard Friday. Retired from his job as an economist for the Polish government, Kossinsky came to the Loeb Theater to meet with the cast, director and producers of a student rendition of Angels in America.
"I knew nothing about homosexuality then. But because I loved him, I suffered," Kossinsky said.
The play's co-producer, Stephen E.Gordon '98, said Kossinsky was invited to talk with the cast because of the play's subject matter. Angels in America recounts the story of two couples dealing with homosexuality and AIDS.
Gordon and co-producer Adam S. Hickey '99, who is a Crimson editor, have said they wanted the show, which closed Saturday night, to do more than just entertain the audience. The American Repertory Theatre and the producers of the play agreed to pledge 50 percent of ticket sales from last Wednesday and Thursday's shows--about $900--to the not-for-profit Cambridge Cares About AIDS.
And two groups that deal with HIV-related issues, Peer Contraceptive Counselors and VISIONS, tabled at various performances.
Gordon said: "We wanted to give the audience an opportunity to interact more with these issues than just by watching the show."
Kossinsky himself took in Friday's performance. In an interview before-hand, he said he was extraordinarily naive when the affair began in the city of Torun in November 1941, during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
"I had never met anyone so kind. For the first time I knew the feelings of love, man to man," Kossinsky said. "It was very romantic."
But in September 1942, Kossinsky was arrested after the Gestapo intercepted his love letter.
Nazi police beat and interrogated him for two weeks. He ended the torture by signing a confession, and thought his freedom would follow. Instead, Kossinsky was sentenced to five years in the concentration camp at Koronowo, Poland.
He was all of 17 at the time.
Kossinsky's story is recorded in Damned Strong Love, by Dutch author Lutz Van Dijk. A film on Kossinsky is expected to be released by the end of 1999.
"I want the whole world to know that a boy was beaten for nothing," Kossinsky said. "Out of anger, I share my story."
Part of the story remains a mystery to Kossinsky. He never saw Willi again.