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«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»

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January 2010

Wartime Rescue of Jews

by the Polish Catholic Clergy

The Testimony of Survivors

Edited and compiled by

Mark Paul

Polish Educational Foundation in North America

Toronto 2009

Rescue activities on behalf of Jews were carried out by priests, nuns and monks in more than one

thousand Roman Catholic Church institutions throughout Poland during World War II. The number of

priests and religious involved in these activities was many times higher.

This effort is all the more remarkable since Poland was the only country under Nazi Germany occupation where any form of assistance to Jews was routinely punishable by death. Several dozen members of the Polish clergy were executed for this reason.

It must also be borne in mind that the Polish Catholic clergy were the only Christian clergy who were systematically surveilled, persecuted, murdered and imprisoned by the thousands as a result of Nazi genocidal policies.

This selection of accounts of rescue is far from comprehensive, with several hundred additional cases yet to be entered. It has been compiled by The Polish Educational Foundation in North

America (Toronto) and is posted on the Internet at:

http://www.savingjews.org/docs/clergy_rescue.pdf http://www.kpk-toronto.org/archives/clergy_rescue_saving_jews.pdf http://www.glaukopis.pl/pdf/czytelnia/WartimeRescueOfJewsByThePolishCatholicClergy_MarkPaul.pdf





An Overview of the German Occupation, 1939–1945

The Treatment of the Polish Catholic Clergy

The Early Years of the German Occupation, 1939–1941

Germany Attacks the Soviet Union, June 1941

The Holocaust Gets Under Way with Full Fury, 1942–1945

Select Bibliography

Religious and Monastic Orders of Women Who Rescued Jews

Religious and Monastic Orders of Men Who Rescued Jews……...………………………………. 272 Polish Roman Catholic Priests and Nuns Recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Authority

Polish Roman Catholic Clergy and Religious Murdered by the Germans for Assisting Jews

Collective Rescue Efforts of the Poles……………………………………………………................ 287 Recognition and (In)Gratitude

–  –  –

Holocaust historian Philip Friedman describes various forms of assistance provided by the Catholic clergy throughout Poland in his pioneering work on rescuers of Jews, Their Brothers’ Keepers (New York: Holocaust Library, 1978), at pages 125–26 and 140.

Emanuel Ringelblum notes in his diaries dated December 31, 1940, that priests in all of Warsaw’s churches exhorted their parishioners to bury their prejudice against Jews and beware of the poison of Jew-hatred preached by the common enemy, the Germans. In an entry of June, 1941, Ringelblum tells of a priest in Kampinos who called on his flock to aid Jewish inmates of the forced-labor camps in the vicinity. A priest in Grajewo [Rev. Aleksander Pęza] similarly enjoined his parishioners to help Jews.

During the early days of the German occupation, in October, 1939, eleven Jews were seized in Szczebrzeszyn. Aid was sought from the local priest, Cieslicki [Józef Cieślicki]. He promptly formed a committee of Christians to plead with the German authorities. … Several Jews of Siedlce survived in a bunker in the woods near Miedzyrzec [Międzyrzec], thanks to a monk who, having discovered their hiding place by accident, brought them food every day.

In July, 1941, the Germans imposed a staggering fine on the Jews of Zolkiew [Żółkiew]; a Roman Catholic priest contributed a large sum of money to help the Jews.

Andreas [Andrzej] Gdowski, priest of the famous Ostra Brama Church in Vilna, saved the lives of several Jews by concealing them in the house of worship. According to Hermann Adler, a Jewish poet who survived the Vilna ghetto, Father Gdowski, in addition to saving the lives of Jews, also took care of their spiritual needs by setting aside a wellcamouflaged room in his church to be used by his “guests” as a synagogue.

In Szczucin, on the Day of Atonement, 1939, the Germans staged a raid on all the synagogues. They harassed and beat worshipers, ridiculed and spat upon them; they tore the garments off young Jewish females and drove them naked through the market place. At noon, the vicar of the local Catholic church appeared in the market place in his sacerdotal vestments and implored the Germans to cease torturing the Jews and permit them to return to their prayers. The SS men, however, were not to be denied their afternoon of fun and frolic; they burned down the synagogues.

A number of priests in the neighborhood of the death camp at Treblinka gave food and shelter to Jews escaping from transports on the way to the camp.

Father [Jan] Urbanowicz of Brzesc-on-Bug [Brześć nad Bugiem] was shot by the Germans in June, 1943, for aiding Jews. For the same crime Canon Roman Archutowski, Rector of the Clerical Academy in Warsaw, was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp, where he died of torture in October, 1943. Similarly, the Deacon [Dean] of Grodno parish and the Prior of the Franciscan Order were sent to Lomza [Łomża] in the autumn of 1943, and were shot.

In 1942, during the massive German raids on the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, the three remaining rabbis received an offer of asylum from members of the Catholic clergy. The rabbis graciously declined the proffered chance of escape and perished with their congregations. … Several priests in Vilna [Wilno] delivered sermons admonishing their parishioners to refrain from taking Jewish property or shedding blood; eventually those clerics disappeared.

A priest who baptized a seventeen-year-old Jewish girl and aided her in other ways was tried in public, flogged by the Gestapo, and sentenced to forced labor for life.

Historian Władysław Bartoszewski, a prominent member of Żegota, the wartime Council for Aid to Jews, provides the following overview in The Blood Shed Unites Us: Pages from the History of Help to the Jews in Occupied Poland (Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1970), at pages 189–94.

There was hardly a monastic congregation in Poland during the occupation that did not come in contact with the problem of help to the hiding Jews, chiefly to women and children—despite strong pressure from the Gestapo and constant surveillance of the monasteries, and the forced resettlement of congregations, arrests and deportations to concentration camps, thus rendering underground work more difficult. Some orders carried on work on a particularly large scale: the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary who concealed several hundred Jewish children in their homes throughout Poland; the figure of Mother [Matylda] Getter, Provincial Superior of that Congregation, has already gone 4 down in history. The Ursuline Sisters [of the Roman Union] played a similar role in Warsaw, Lublin, Cracow [Kraków] and Cracow Voivodship, Lvov [Lwów], Stanisławów and Kołomyja; the nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception did the same in their convents; the Discalced Carmelites gave shelter to the especially endangered leaders of Jewish underground organizations. In their home at 27 Wolska Street in Warsaw, situated near the ghetto walls, help was given to refugees in various forms; this was one of the places where false documents were delivered to Jews; there, too, liaison men of the Jewish underground on the “Aryan” side—Arie Wilner, Tuwie Szejngut, and others—had their secret premises. In 1942 and 1943, the seventeen sisters lived under permanent danger of [death] but never declined their cooperation even in the most hazardous undertakings. The Benedictine Samaritan Order of the Holy Cross concealed children and adults at Pruszków, Henryków and Samaria in the voivodship of Warsaw; Sisters of the Order of the Resurrection [of Our Lord Jesus Christ] hid Jews in all their convents throughout Poland; the Franciscan Sisters [Servants of the Cross] in Laski near Warsaw many a time gave refuge and help to a great number of these persecuted when all other efforts had failed;

the Sacré-Coeur Congregation took care of Jews in Lvov [Lwów] at the time of most intensified Nazi terror there. … Equally splendid was the record of many orders of monks, and in particular the St Vincent [de Paul] Congregation of Missionary Fathers, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Salesian Society, the Catholic Apostleship Association, the Congregation of Marist Fathers, the Franciscans, the Capuchins and the Dominicans.

Well known is the protective role played towards the Jews by Archbishop Romuald Jałbrzykowski, at the time metropolitan bishop in Vilna [Wilno], and by Dr Ignacy Świrski, professor of moral theology at Stefan Batory University in Vilna, after the war Ordinary of Siedlce Diocese (died in 1968); it was of their will and with their knowledge that a great many refugees from the ghettos were hiding in ecclesiastical institutions and convents. Also well known are the activities of the distinguished writer and preacher, the late Father Jacek Woroniecki of the Dominican Order. In Warsaw, an especially beneficent role was played among others by Father Władysław Korniłowicz, Father Jan Zieja, Father Zygmunt Trószyński, and in the ghetto itself, up to 1942, by Father Marceli Godlewski, rector of the Roman Catholic parish of All Saints, by Father Antoni Czarnecki and Father Tadeusz Nowotko. In Cracow [Kraków], broad social work was displayed—with the knowledge and of the will of the Archbishop-Metropolitan Adam Sapieha, by Father Ferdynand Machay, well-known civic leader, writer and preacher. It was also to the priests throughout the country that the dangerous task fell ex officio to issue to people in hiding birth and baptism certificates necessary for the obtaining of “Aryan” documents. A number of priests, like Father Julian Chróścicki [Chruścicki] from Warsaw, paid for it with deportation to a concentration camp. … In all their efforts aimed at helping Jews, the clergy and the convents collaborated as a rule with Catholic laymen in their region. Thus, for example, rectors would place some of those hiding in the homes of their parishioners, and convents often kept in contact with lay institutions of Polish social welfare; the personnel of the latter included a great many persons dedicated to the idea of bringing help.

5 The Treatment of the Polish Catholic Clergy

Already in the first months of the occupation, the Catholic Church in Poland, and especially its clergy in the western territories incorporated into the Reich, was subjected to systematic persecution of massive proportions— something unheard of in any other German-occupied country. These measures were well-documented and reports

from 1939 and 1940 were published in The Persecution of the Catholic Church in German-Occupied Poland:

Reports Presented by H.E. Cardinal Hlond, Primate of Poland, to Pope Pius XII, Vatican Broadcasts and Other Reliable Evidence (London: Burns Oates, 1941; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1941). Those reports provide vivid descriptions of the cruel treatment meted out to hundreds of members of the Polish clergy including bishops. Although these crimes were committed in the open and seen by the population at large, including the Jews, there are no known reports of how Jews, especially rabbis, reacted to them.

In the archdiocese of Gniezno:

The Archdiocesan Curia was closed by the Gestapo. … Likewise, the Metropolitan Tribunal of the first and second instance has been closed and taken over by the Gestapo. The keys of the Curia and the Tribunal are in the hands of the Gestapo.

The Metropolitan Chapter has been dispersed. The Vicar-General and Mgr.[Stanisław] Krzeszkiewicz remain in their houses. The others were ejected from their homes, and Canon [Aleksy] Brasse has been deported to Central Poland [the General Government]. … The archiespiscopal seminary of philosophy at Gniezno was taken over by the soldiers. A German general has taken the archiespiscopal palace as his quarters. The homes of the expelled Canons, as likewise the dwelling-places of the lower clergy of the Basilica, have been occupied by the Germans. … The Conventual Fathers of Gniezno were thrust out of their parish and convent, the latter being used as a place of detention for Jews. The principal parish church, that of the Holy Trinity, was profaned, the parish house invaded, and the entire belongings were stolen.

The German authorities, especially the Gestapo, rage against the Catholic clergy, who live under a rule of terror, constantly harassed by provocations, with no possibility of recourse or legitimate defence.

The following priests were shot by the Germans:

Rev. Anthony [Antoni] Lewicki, rural dean and parish priest of Goscieszyn [Gościeszyn].

Rev. Michael [Michał] Rolski, rural dean and parish priest of Szczepanowo.

Rev. Matthew Zablocki [Mateusz Zabłocki], rural dean and parish priest of Gniezno.

Rev. Wenceslaus [Wacław] Janke, parish priest of Jaktorowo.

Rev. Zeno Niziolkiewicz [Zenon Niziołkiewicz], parish priest of Slaboszewo [Słaboszewo].

Rev. John [Jan] Jakubowski, curate of Bydgoszcz.

Rev. Casimir [Kazimierz] Nowicki, curate of Janowiec.

Rev. Ladislaus [Władysław] Nowicki, curate of Szczepanowo.

Rev. Peter [Piotr] Szarek, a Lazarist Father, curate of Bydgoszcz.

Rev. [Stanisław] Wiorek, a Lazarist [Vincentian] Father, curate of Bydgoszcz.

With blows of their rifle-butts, German soldiers killed:

Rev. Marian Skrzypczak, curate of Plonkowo [Płonkowo].

Due to forced labour:

Rev. Joseph [Józef] Domeracki, rural dean and parish priest of Gromadno.

Died in prison:

Rev. Canon Boleslaus [Bolesław] Jaskowski, parish priest of Inowroclaw [Inowrocław].

Rev. Romoald Soltysinski [Romuald Sołtysiński], parish priest of Rzadkwin.

Killed by a German bomb:

Rev. Leo [Leon] Breczewski, parish priest of Sosnica [Sośnica].

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