«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Despite frequent house searches and the prevailing Nazi terror in Warsaw (conditions absent in the Netherlands), and despite extortionists, blackmailers, and antisemitic traditions (much less widespread in the Netherlands), the chance that a Jew in hiding would be betrayed seems to have been lower in Warsaw than in the Netherlands.
… it is clear that Warsaw was the most important centre of rescue activity, certainly in Poland and probably in the whole of occupied Europe. The city accounted for perhaps a quarter of all Jews in hiding in Poland … The 27,000 Jews in hiding there also constituted undoubtedly the largest group of its kind in Europe … See also Gunnar S. Paulsson, “Evading the Holocaust: The Unexplored Continent of Holocaust Historiography,” in John K. Roth and Elisabeth Maxwell, eds., Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of 287 Genocide (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York: Palgrave, 2001), vol. 1, pp.302–318; Gunnar S.
Paulsson, “Ringelblum Revisited: Polish-Jewish Relations in Occupied Warsaw, 1940–1945,” in Joshua D.
Zimmerman, ed., Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath (New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2003), pp.173–92; and a newly published monograph by Gunnar S. Paulsson, Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002).
Contrary to what is often claimed in Holocaust literature, there are many recorded cases of entire villages sympathizing with the Jews and participating in their rescue. With rare exceptions, these rescuers—and indeed the vast majority of those who extended assistance to Jews—have not been recognized by Yad Vashem. Emanuel Ringelblum recorded: “I heard from Jews of Glowno [Główne] how peasants helped them during the whole of the winter. A Jew who went out to a village in search of food usually returned with a bag of potatoes … In many villages, the peasants showed open sympathy for the Jews. They threw bread and other food [through the barbedwire fence] into the camps … located in their neighborhood.” See Philip Friedman, Their Brothers’ Keepers (New York: Holocaust Library, 1978), p.116. Hercek Cedrowski, Tojwje Drajhorm and Jankiel Borkowski wrote in 1947: “The Jews of Ozorków maintained contact with the Poles. The Polish population did not help the Germans in the liquidation of the Jews. They traded with the Jews and brought food to the ghetto. The Jews were afraid of speaking with Poles, and Poles were afraid of helping Jews, but there were no denunciations of Jews.” See Michał Grynberg and Maria Kotowska, comp. and eds., Życie i zagłada Żydów polskich 1939–1945: Relacje świadków (Warsaw: Oficyna Naukowa, 2003), p.488. Menachem Superman, who was survived in the Rzeszów area, wrote: “the entire village knew that I was Jewish, but [my rescuer] always said to me that I shouldn’t be afraid, because no one will hand me over to the Germans.” See Elżbieta Rączy, Pomoc Polaków dla ludności żydowskiej na Rzeszowszczyźnie 1939–1945 (Rzeszów: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2008), p.128. Isadore Burstyn, as a boy of eleven, was able to survive through the friendship of people in the village of Głupianka near Otwock (outside of Warsaw), where his father was confined in the ghetto: “In my case the entire village sheltered me even though I know there were still about 20 per cent anti-Semites among them.” See “Edmonton survivor returns to Poland,” The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto), August 2, 1990, and “Return to Otwock brings back rush of memories,” The Canadian Jewish News,
August 30, 1990. See also Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vol. 5:
Poland, Part 2, p.927. When Abram Jakub Zand, a tailor from the village of Bolimów near Warsaw, “stole back to his village; the local peasants welcomed him back, and he was passed from house to house, working a week or two in each. … ‘If I were to thank everyone, whole villages would have to visit me.’” See Tatiana Berenstein and Adam Rutkowski, Assistance to the Jews in Poland, 1939–1945 (Warsaw: Polonia Publishing House, 1963), p.27. A Polish Red Cross worker gave over to a Polish couple by the name of Kaczmarek, themselves refugees from Western Poland living in the town of Żyrardów near Warsaw, a young Jewish girl found abandoned in an empty death train: Many of the neighbours knew that she was Jewish, yet no one informed.” See Zbigniew Pakula, The Jews of Poznań (London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2003), p.51. In the village of Osiny, “the peasants arranged among themselves that each would hide a Jewish girl for a certain period so that ‘everyone would be guilty and no one could inform.’” See Berenstein and Rutkowski, Assistance to the Jews in Poland, 1939–1945, p.27; Krzysztof Czubaszek, Żydzi z Łukowa i okolic (Warsaw: Danmar, 2008), p.252. Henryk Prajs survived the war passing as a Pole in the village of Podwierzbie near Magnuszew where the fact that he was Jewish was widely known, with the protection of the head of the village. See the testimony of Henryk Prajs, January 2005, Internet: http://www.centropa.org. In the small village of Bokowo Wielkie near Sierpc four Jews were rescued by diverse Polish farmers. See Leon Gongoła, “O prawach i ludziach,” Polska (Warsaw), no. 7 (1971): pp.170–72. A Jew by the name of Duczy was sheltered in his native village of Tarzymiechy near Zamość,
with the knowledge of all of the villagers. See Philip Bialowitz, as told to Joseph Bialowitz, Bunt w Sobiborze:
Opowieść o przetrwaniu w Polsce okupowanej przez Niemców (Warsaw: Nasza Księgarnia, 2008), pp.214–15.
The case of author Jerzy Kosinski and his parents, who lived openly in Dąbrowa Rzeczycka near Stalowa Wola, is another example. The Kosiński family attended church in nearby Wola Rzeczycka, obtained food from villagers in Kępa Rzeczycka, and were sheltered temporarily in Rzeczyca Okrągła. Other Jews were also assisted by the local villagers. See James Park Sloan, Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography (New York: Dutton/Penguin, 1996), pp.7–54.
288 Faiga Rosenbluth, a penniless teenage Jewish girl from Kańczuga, roamed the countryside moving from one village to the next for some two years; she helped out by very many peasants and was not betrayed, even though she was readily recognized as a Jew. See Fay Walker and Leo Rosen (with Caren S. Neile), Hidden: A Sister and Brother in Nazi Poland (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002), passim. Marian Gołębiowski, who was awarded by Yad Vashem, placed Dr. Bernard Ryszard Hellreich (later Ingram) and his future wife Irena Szumska, who went by the names of Zbigniew and Irena Jakobiszyn, in the village of Czermna near Jasło, where their presence was known to all the villagers and they enjoyed the protection of the owners and manager of a local estate. See Piotr Zychowicz, “Ratowali Żydów i nie godzą sie na kłamstwa,” Rzeczpospolita, October 30, 2009;
Polish Righteous, Internet: http://www.sprawiedliwi.org.pl. Henryk Schönker recalled that when he was fingered in Wieliczka by a boy who started to chase him, the passers-by ignored the boy’s cry to “catch the Jew.” No made an effort to apprehend him. One of the onlookers seized the boy and admonished him. See Henryk Schönker, Dotknięcie anioła (Warsaw: Ośrodek Karta, 2005), pp.135–36. The case of Doctor Olga Lilien, a Holocaust survivor from Lwów with a very marked Jewish appearance, who lived with a Polish family near Tarnobrzeg, is another example of solidarity among the Polish villagers. A German came looking for a fugitive and summoned the villagers to a meeting to question them about his whereabouts. “Suddenly he looked at me and said, ‘Oh, but this is a Jewess.’ The head of the village said, ‘Oh, no, she cooks at the school. She is a very good cook.’ Nobody said, ‘Oh, well, she is Jewish. Take her.’ He let me go. The population of the village was about two thousand. They all knew there was something ‘wrong’ with me. Any one of them could have sold me to the Germans for two hundred deutsche marks, but out of two thousand people nobody did it. Everybody in the village protected me. I had very good relations with them.” See Ellen Land-Weber, To Save a Life: Stories of Holocaust Rescue (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000), pp.204–206, 246. The villagers of Czajków near Staszów were known for the support they gave to Jews who were hiding from the Germans: “it was something exceptional to see the humane way the villagers behaved. These simple people helped us of their own free will, and without receiving any money in return. From them we often heard some kind words, quite apart from the money, loaves of bread and boiled potatoes they gave us from time to time.” See Gabriel Singer, “As Beasts in the Woods,” in Elhanan Ehrlich, ed., Sefer Staszow (Tel Aviv: Organization of Staszowites in Israel with the Assistance of the Staszowite Organizations in the Diaspora, 1962), p.xviii (English section). More than a dozen villagers have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Gentiles. See Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vols. 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, p.197; Part 2, p.670. Many villagers in Głuchów near Łańcut were also engaged in sheltering Jews, and did so with the support of the entire community. See Mariusz Kamieniecki, “Ratowali Żydów przed zagładą,” Nasz Dziennik, November 24, 2005.
An illiterate Jewish woman who survived in a village near Lublin acknowledged that “the entire village rescued me. They all wanted me to survive. And when the Germans were routed, I left the village and shall never return there.” When asked why she didn’t want to see the people who saved her life, she replied: “Because I would be
beholden to the entire village. So I left and won’t return.” See Klara Mirska, W cieniu wiecznego strachu:
Wspomnienia (Paris, n.p.: 1980), p.455. The villagers of Wola Przybysławska near Lublin took turns sheltering and caring for a young Jewish girl who survived a German raid on a forest bunker. She was passed from one home to another, thus ensuring there wouldn’t be any informing. See Shiye Goldberg (Shie Chehever), The Undefeated (Tel Aviv: H. Leivick Publishing House, 1985), pp.166–67. A Jewish woman named Berkowa (née Zelman) was rescued by Jan Łoś in the village of Żabno near Żółkiewka; although this was widely known, no one betrayed her. The Wajc family, consisting of Mendel and Ryfka and their two young sons, Jankiel and Zygmunt, survived in the village of Różki near Żółkiewka, where they were known to the villagers. See Chaim Zylberklang, Z Żółkiewki do Erec Israel: Przez Kotłas, Buzułuk, Ural, Polskę, Niemcy i Francję, Second revised and expanded edition (Lublin: Akko, 2004), 169, pp.171–72. A Jewish boy of seven or eight years named Abraham, who tended geese for a farmer near Sandomierz, was known to the peasants as “Żydek” (little Jew). See Eva Feldenkreiz-Grinbal, ed., Eth Ezkera—Whenever I Remember: Memorial Book of the Jewish Community in Tzoymir (Sandomierz) (Tel Aviv: Irgun yots’e Tsoizmir be-Yisra’l: Moreshet, bet iedut ‘a. sh. Mordekhai Anilevits’, 1993), p.544. The Idasiak family took in a teenaged Jewish boy by the name of Dawid, whom they sheltered for almost two years. The neighbours were fully aware that he was Jewish and also helped him. He herded cows and played with the village children. See the account of B. Idasiak, “Jedwabne: Dlaczego kłamstwa?,” Nasz Dziennik, February 26, 2001. A 9-year-old Jewish boy by the name of Wintluk (Wintel), who 289 had lost his mother and three fingers when shot at by Germans while escaping, was taken in by a poor Polish family in Mulawicze near Bielsk Podlaski and then cared for and protected by the entire village who took pity on him: “The entire village, which was more aware of the danger, took responsibility for his survival. The village administrator gave warning of visits by the Germans, who were stationed in the village school. Thanks to this collective effort, the boy survived the war.” See Alina Cała, The Image of the Jew in Polish Folk Culture (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew Univeristy, 1995), pp.209–10. Alfreda and Bolesław Pietraszek sheltered several Jewish families consisting of 18 people on their farm in Czekanów near Sokołów Podlaski for a period of two years. Although they had to rely on the assistance of neighbors for food for their charges, no one betrayed them. See “Odznaczenia dla Sprawiedliwych,” Internet: http://www.forumznak.org.pl/index.php?t=wydarzenia&id=6109. Two young Jewish men were passed from farmer to farmer in the village of Zdziebórz near Wyszków and were eventually accepted into the Home Army. See Krystian Brodacki, “Musimy ich uszanować!” Tygodnik Solidarność, December 17, 2004. Yitzhak Kuniak from Kałuszyn hid among peasants for whom he was sewing secretly. He moved about in a few villages where he was fed and
sheltered. See Layb Rochman, “With Kuniak in Hiding,” in A. Shamri and Sh. Soroka, eds., Sefer Kaluszyn:
Geheylikt der khorev gevorener kehile (Tel Aviv: Former Residents of Kaluszyn in Israel, 1961), 437ff., translated as The Memorial Book of Kaluszyn, Internet: http://jewishgen.org/Yizkor/kaluszyn/Kaluszyn.html.