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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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A teenaged boy and his mother, who lived in a damaged, abandoned house in Drzewica where he openly played with village boys, survived the war despite his Semitic appearance. See Sven Sonnenberg, A Two Stop Journey to Hell (Montreal: Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada, 2001). A poor Jewish tailor survived the war by being passed from home to home in the village of Dąbrowica near Ulanów. See Jolanta Chodorska, ed., Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny: Świadectwa nadesłane na apel Radia Maryja (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Sióstr Loretanek, 2002), Part Two, pp.161–62. Jerzy and Irena Krępeć, who were awarded by Yad Vashem, sheltered and otherwise assisted a number of Jews on their farm in Gołąbki near Warsaw. Their son, a 14-year-old boy at the time, recalled: “the fact that they were hiding Jews was an open secret in the village. At times, there were 20 or 30 people living on the farm. Many of the visitors were urban Jews who spoke Polish with an accent. Their children attended underground schools that moved from house to house. ‘The neighbors knew. It would have been impossible to manage this without people finding out. But everyone knew they had to keep quiet—it was a matter of life or death.’” In fact, many of the Krępeć’s Polish neighbours helped, “if only to provide a meal.” See Peggy Curran, “Decent people: Polish couple honored for saving Jews from Nazis,” Gazette (Montreal), December 10, 1994; Janice Arnold, “Polish widow made Righteous Gentile,” The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal edition), January 26, 1995; Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski, Żegota: The Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942–1945 (Montreal: Price-Patterson, 1999), pp.131–32. Ludwika Fiszer was one of three women who escaped naked from an execution pit where Jews from the Poniatowa labour camp were taken by Germans and their Ukrainian henchmen. Roaming from village to village, despite their dishevelled appearances, they received various forms of assistance, even though the peasants were clearly terrified of Ukrainian retaliation. Although most peasants were reluctant to keep them for any length of time, no one betrayed them, and several weeks later they met up with a Polish woman who took them to Warsaw. See the account of Ludwika Fiszer in the web site

Women and the Holocaust (Personal Reflections—In Ghettos/Camps), Internet:

http://www.interlog.com/~mighty/personal/ludwika.html. Joseph Dattner, from Bielsko in Upper Silesia, recalls: “I survived, like my brothers, by pretending to be Christian. I took the name Poluk but I was well-known and most people knew I was Jewish.” See Al Sokol, “Holocaust theme underscores work of artist,” Toronto Star, November 7, 1996. Several Jews were hidden in a forest bunker near the village of Leńce near Białystok. The villagers in the area knew about these Jews, but no one denounced them. See Władysław Bartoszewski and Zofia Lewinówna, eds., Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Second revised and expanded edition (Kraków: Znak, 1969), pp.741–42. In the village of Dziurków near Radom, a local Jew lived openly throughout the war with two Polish families under an assumed identity furnished by the Home Army, and even took seasonal employment with the Germans, without being betrayed. See Tadeusz Kozłowski, “Spotkanie z żydowskim kolegą po 50 latach,” Gazeta (Toronto), May 12–14, 1995. In the village of Olsztyn near Częstochowa, four Jewish families passed as Polish Christians with the collusion of the villagers. See Frank Morgens, Years at the Edge of Existence: War Memoirs, 1939–1945 (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1996), pp.97, 99. Another eyewitness writes: “In Kielce Voivodship I know of cases where an entire village knew that a Jew or a Jewess were hiding 290 out, disguised in peasant clothes, and no one betrayed them even though they were poor Jews who not only could not pay for their silence but had to be fed, clothed and housed.” See Władysław Bartoszewski and Zofia Lewin, eds., Righteous Among Nations: How Poles Helped the Jews, 1939–1945 (London: Earlscourt Publications, 1969), p.361. A similar attitude in several villages near Łowicz is described by Joseph Szmekura. See Gedaliah Shaiak, ed., Lowicz, A Town in Mazovia: Memorial Book (Tel Aviv: Lowitcher Landsmanshaften in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, 1966), pp.xvi–xvii. Hanna Mesz, along with her mother, spent the period September 1944 to February 1945 in the village of Korzeniówka near Grójec, working for various peasants who knew they were

Jews. See Wiktoria Śliwowska, ed., The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak (Evanston, Illinois:

Northwestern University Press, 1998), pp.120–23. A similar case near Łaskarzew is recorded in Małgorzata Niezabitowska, Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland (New York: Friendly Press, 1986), pp.118–124: Zygmunt Srul Warszawer hid for 26 months moving from place to place among numerous villages, such as Wielki Las, in the triangle formed by Łaskarzew, Sobolew, and Wilga, “visiting every farm because he figured that if everyone helped him no one would turn him in—to do would mean self-destruction.” No one turned him away empty handed during those 26 months: “‘No one ever refused to help you?’ ‘No, not food! In twenty-six months, not once. Sometimes they were afraid to let me into the house, or into the barn. It varied, but their food they shared.” The following examples can be found in Nechama Tec, Resilience and Courage: Women, Men, and the Holocaust (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003). Eva Safszycka, not yet 20 at the time, left the ghetto in Siedlce, obtained false identity documents with the help of a Pole, a stranger she happened to encounter, and took a position as a domestic on an estate owned by a Pole. She recalled: “I met with so much kindness from the Poles, so many were decent and helpful that it is unbelievable. … They hid other Jews, one of them a girl of eleven.” Ibid., p.224. Tema Rotman-Weinstock from the Lublin area presents a similar story. Dressed as a peasant, during the last stage of the war she roamed the familiar countryside moving from employer to employer, most of whom were hungry themselves and found it hard to feed her. She met a cousin who lived with his wife in a bunker in the forest, but he refused to let her join them. Once when she was on the verge of collapse, kind peasants took her into their home. After a month, afraid to keep her, they directed her to a woman who lived on a farm with her daughter in the village of Kajetanówka. She remained there until the liberation, even though the word had spread that she was Jewish. “Fortunately, no bad consequences followed because she found a powerful protector in the local priest. He baptized Tema and defended her … ‘The priest stood up for me, arguing that conversion was a wonderful Christian deed.’” Ibid., pp.227–29. Rina Eitani (11 years old at the time) and her mother and sister (10 years old) supported themselves by smuggling farm goods from the countryside to Warsaw.

They worked separately to lessen the risk of discovery. While the Germans were ruthless toward smugglers, the natives treated them kindly: “One day I was buying something in a store. A little girl came in, warning me, ‘The Gestapo are in the house where you live.’ Right away, the owner of the store, a woman, put me in the cellar. She wouldn’t let me go until the Gestapo left. … We stayed a lot in the villages where we bought the produce. The peasants were nice to us. They would feed us and sometimes, in exchange, we worked for them.” Ibid., 231–32.

Chava Grinberg-Brown roamed the countryside near Żyrardów (she hailed from the village of Wiskitki) for the last years of the German occupation: “…at the end of each day, I would beg people to let me come in and sleep. I remember that once someone gave me a place to stay and offered me chicken soup … In another home, one of the women gave me medication for my skin condition. They knew that I was Jewish … it was obvious. As I wandered from one little place to another, people fed me and let me sleep in their homes or close to them; in barns, pigstys, etc.” When a Pole who recognized her wanted to turn her in, “Some peasants who realized what he was after threatened to give him a beating he would never forget. That stopped him from bothering me.” Her story continues: “I went to the place I had worked before [the war]. I stayed there for a few days. After that, I kept moving from one place to another. Some refused me work. Then a peasant offered me a more stable job. … I remained with this peasant for most of the summer. Then I left and went to another village. I went from one village to another. Even during the summer I would change places. When the Poles sent me away, I was not angry.

I understood that they were afraid or had not enough food and could not share the little they had. I did not particularly feel their anti-Semitism. … Most people knew right away when I came in that I was Jewish, but they did not harm me. Only a few times did I have to run away. … When I entered a village I would go first to the head of the village, and he would send me to a peasant. Usually they were not afraid if they had a note from the head of the village. … I have no bad feelings toward the Christians. I survived the war thanks to them.” Ibid., pp.225–27.

291 A 31-year-old barber named Zimler, who wandered with his wife in the Wiskitki area near Żyrardów in 1941, cutting hair for farmers, wrote that “the attitude of the farmers to us was extremely good.” The farmers in various villages such as Oryszew, Wyczółki and Janówka, allowed them to stay in their homes, gave them food, washed their laundry, and even invited them to a wedding. See Marta Markowska, ed., Archiwum Ringelbluma: Dzień po dniu Zagłady (Warsaw: Ośrodek Karta, Dom Spotkań z Historią, and Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, 2008), 100–1. In an unspecified village outside Warsaw, “A Jew who had been starving in the woods turned up one day, asking for water. The farmer called the police, who shot the Jew on the spot. This had so outraged the village that the offender had to flee to Warsaw in fear of reprisal.” See Natan Gross, Who Are You, Mr Grymek? (London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2001), pp.248–49. A number of Jews were sheltered in another unnamed village outside Warsaw, with the knowledge of the entire village, and no one was betrayed. See Bartoszewski and Lewinówna, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, 2nd ed., pp.572–73. Franciszka Aronson, from a village near Mińsk Mazowiecki, wandered about many villages, including villages where she was known, before she was taken in by nuns at a convent in Ignaców where several Jews and a Gypsy woman were sheltered. See Ewa Kurek, Dzieci żydowskie w klasztorach: Udział żeńskich zgromadzeń zakonnych w akcji ratowania dzieci żydowskich w Polsce a latach 1939–1945 (Lublin: Clio, 2001), p.116. Dr. Zofia Szymańska, who was sheltered by the Grey Ursulines in Ożarów, received material care and an abundance of spiritual comfort from many nuns and priests, without any effort on their part to convert her. News of her stay was widely known to the villagers but no one betrayed her, not even when a German military unit was, at one point, quartered in the convent. Her 10-year-old niece, who had a very Semitic appearance, was sheltered by the Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary in Szymanów, along with more than a dozen Jewish girls. All of the nuns were aware that their young charges were Jews, as were the lay staff, the parents of non-Jewish children and many villagers. None of the Christian parents removed their children from the school despite the potential danger, and in fact many of them contributed to the upkeep of the Jewish children. Dr. Szymańska wrote: “The children were under the protection of the entire convent and village. Not one traitor was to be found among them.” See Zofia Szymańska, Byłam tylko lekarzem… (Warsaw: Pax, 1979), pp.149–76. Another example is provided by Mary Rolicka, whose mother, one other Jewish woman and two Jewish men were sheltered by the Sisters of Charity, with the assistance of their chaplain, Rev. Albin Małysiak, in the Helcel Institute in Kraków and later at an old age home in Szczawnica. Rev.

Małysiak recalled: “All of the charges of the institute as well as the personnel (nuns and lay staff) knew that there were Jews hidden among us. It was impossible to conceal that fact, even though it was known what danger faced those who were responsible for sheltering Jews. After the passage of weeks and months many of the residents of Szczawnica learned of the Jewish boarders. No one betrayed this to the Germans, who were stationed in the immediate vicinity.” See Mary Rolicka, “A Memoir of Survival in Poland,” Midstream, April 1988, pp.26–27. It was universally known that the young daughter of Reb Moshe of Grodzisko near Leżajsk was sheltered in an orphanage run by nuns in that village, yet no one betrayed her. See Bertha Ferderber-Salz, And the Sun Kept Shining… (New York: Holocaust Library, 1980), p.199. Marian Małowist, who survived the war in the village of Jabłoń near Parczew, said: “The family with whom I lived knew everything about me—in fact, two families knew.

After the war it came out that more families knew, and also the chief of the navy-blue police, a Pole, a very decent person. Juliusz Kleiner was hiding in the neighbourhood; in the next village there was a Jewess; in that area many were hiding.” See “Marian Małowist on History and Historians,” in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, vol. 13 (2000): p.338. Jewish partisan Gustaw Alef-Bolkowiak identifies the following villages in the Parczew-Ostrów Lubelski area as ones where “almost the entire population was actively engaged in helping fugitives from the ghettos”: Rudka, Jedlanka, Makoszka, Tyśmienica and Bójki. He also states that in the village of Niedźwiada near Opole Lubleskie, the foresters sheltered several Jewish families with the knowledge of the entire village. See Bartoszewski and Lewinówna, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, 2nd ed., pp.533–34. About one hundred and fifty Poles were killed in mass executions in the villages of Białka in the Parczew forest and Sterdyń near Sokołów Podlaski for extensive help given to Jews by those villages. See Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One, pp.123–24,

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