«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
294 Vallentine Mitchell, 2004). The most frequent for of assistance was, however, casual assistance for short periods of time offered by many fearful but courageous Poles whose names will never be remembered and whose deeds are largely forgotten. One Jew from Zabłudów has made an effort to recall the numerous Poles who helped him to survive the German occupation in the Białystok District: “We heard the shooting and immediately went to the path leading to the village we knew very well. Some farmers gave us flour, barley, and butter … Early in the morning they took us through the path where we could go to Bialystok … [The Nazis] kept hitting me until I fainted. … I dragged myself to the road; some Christians that stood there and saw me started crying. … Other [Jewish families] went through back ways to the village to get some food. I managed to get a job from Vintzig Volnetzvick, the Christian … His son-in-law, Chashick [Czesiek], promised me that if I stayed with him I wouldn’t have to work for the Germans … One day Vinchick, the Christian that I lived with drove me to Bialystok … Zabludow’s Jewish women went to the Christian’s field to get some potatoes for the winter. … We hid in Vinchik Velosoviches barn deep in the hay … The helpful Christian’s wife came to the barn begging me to leave.
central Poland are recorded in Stanisław Wroński and Maria Zwolakowa, Polacy Żydzi 1939–1945 (Warsaw:
Książka i Wiedza, 1971), p.269 (Niedźwiada near Opole Lubleskie), p.307 (an entire street in the city of Przemyśl was aware of a Jewish hideout), p.322 (Runów near Grójec), p.343 (Gorzyce near Dąbrowa 295 Tarnowska), p.349 (Przydonica, Ubiad, Klimkówka, Jelna, Słowikowa, and Librantowa), p.353 (Rakszawa);
Isaac Kowalski, Anthology on Armed Jewish Resistance, 1939–1945, vol. 3 ((Brooklyn, New York: Jewish Combatants Publishers House, 1986), p.308 (two villages near Parczew); Thomas Toivi Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1997), pp.207ff. (Mchy near
Krasnystaw); Diane Armstrong, Mosaic: A Chronicle of Five Generations (Milsons Point, New South Wales:
Random House, 1998), pp.576–81 (Piszczac near Biała Podlaska); Roman Soszyński, Piszczac: Miasto ongiś królewskie (N.p., n.p., 1993), p.95 (Kolonia Dworska near Piszczac), p.97 (Piszczac); Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vols. 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, p.95 (villages near Lublin), p.317 (villages near Lublin), p.326 (villages near Lublin), pp.343–44 (villages near Skierniewice), p.452 (Różki near Krasnystaw), Part 2, p.647 (villages near Zamość), p.673 (villages near Radzymin), p.692 (villages near Radzymin), p.927 (villages near Otwock). Public executions of Polish rescuers did not bring rescue activity to a hault. See, for example, Chodorska, Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny, Part One, p.21 (Mariampol). Even in large cities like Warsaw, Jews passing as Christians have acknowledged that they unexpectedly ran into many Poles whom they knew without being betrayed: “I often met people I knew who either looked at me without greeting me, or greeted me with open sympathy. … Occasionally, I did not even realize that the person I met knew me.” See Stefan Chaskielewicz, Ukrywałem się w Warszawie: Styczeń 1943–styczeń 1945 (Kraków: Znak, 1988), pp.35–
36. Marcus David Leuchter, who lived in “Aryan” Warsaw for more than two years, attested: “Having escaped from the Ghetto [in Kraków], I assumed a Polish gentile identity. While everybody around me knew, or at least suspected, that I was a Jew, nobody betrayed me.” See his “Reflections on the Holocaust,” The Sarmatian Review (Houston, Texas), vol. 20, no. 3 (September 2000). Henryk Grabowski, the famed liaison officer between the Polish and Jewish underground who smuggled scores of Jews out of the Warsaw ghetto, often used his small, crowded home in Warsaw to hide Jews, a fact widely known among the neighbours. See Barbara Stanisławczyk, Czterdzieści twardych (Warsaw: ABC, 1997), p.91. An entire apartment building in the working-class district of Mokotów in Warsaw was aware that an extended Jewish family, some of them Semitic-looking and speaking Polish poorly, resided in their midst. See Marek Halter, “Tzedek,” Wprost, June 13, 1993. Feliks Tych, a historian at the Jewish Historical Museum in Warsaw, who survived the war as a teenager, recalls: “I lived with my adopted family for some time until liberation in the Warsaw suburb of Miedzeszyn. There the neighbours could not have not known that in our house several Jews were sheltered. And nothing happened to any of them.
No one was denounced.” See “O ukrywaniu się po ‘aryjskiej stronie’: Z profesorem Feliksem Tychem rozmawia Barbara Engelking,” in Zagłada Żydów: Studia i materiały (Warsaw: Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów IFiS PAN, 2005), vol. 1, p.234. A Jewish woman who had to find new lodgings in Warsaw for herself and a friend with a Jewish appearance recalled: “Maria’s physician paid a house call, bringing some medication and an injection. It was only one of several visits for which he never asked payment or information of any kind. … We combed the neighborhood, asking in the storefronts if there might be a room to let. We gave many in those streets occasion to wonder about the two forlorn young women, one with a black-and-blue face. But no one denounced us a Jews or escapees from the ghetto. In fact, one morning the owner of a barber shop on Rakowiecka Street offered Maria his shop to stay in. All he asked was that she come late and leave early, before his help arrived.” See Blanca Rosenberg, To Tell at Last: Survival under False Identity, 1941–45 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993), p.122. Employees of the Warsaw Department of Social Services were heavily involved in the rescue of Jewish children, placing hundreds of them in Catholic convents. “Once we were informed that two boys were hidden in a cubbyhole in [the suburb of] Praga. One of them was running a high fever and it was imperative to move them. A nun took the sick boy on a streetcar and he started to scream out something in Yiddish. The driver was astute enough to sense the danger and yelled out: ‘This streetcar is going to the depot.
Everyone out.’ At the same time he signalled to the nun that she and the boy should remain.” See “Traktowałem to jako obowiązek chrześcijański i polski” (an interview with Jan Dobraczyński), Słowo–Dziennik Katolicki, Warszawa, no. 67 (1993). A Jewish woman who was being pursued by a blackmailer in Warsaw turned to the conductor of the streetcar she had boarded with a plea, “‘Sir, that man is an extortionist and he’s persecuting me.’ Without hesitating, the conductor went over to the intruder and slapped him twice across the face.” In the ensuing confusion, she managed to jump off. See Gross, Who Are You Mr Grymek?, pp.249–50. A network of Poles in the Warsaw suburb of Żoliborz was engaged in finding rooms among trusted for Jews passing as Poles. See Marian Turski, ed., Losy żydowskie: Świadectwo żywych, vol. 2 (Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Żydów Kombatantów 296 i Poszkodowanych w II Wojnie Światowej, 1999), vol. 2, p.150. As another Jew remarked, “in the small houses in Warsaw’s Żoliborz district inhabited mostly by the Polish intelligentsia there were hidden many Jews who had escaped from the ghetto. I was in such a home which belonged to a known prewar Endek [nationalist]. Having learned that he was sheltering two Jewesses I asked with surprise: ‘You who before the war were an anti-Semite are now harbouring Jews in his home???’ He replied: ‘We have a common enemy and I am fighting in my way.
They are Polish citizens and I have to help them.” See Zdzisław Przygoda, Niezwykłe przygody w zwyczajnym życiu (Warszawa: Ypsylon, 1994), p.49.
Assistance by Polish villagers in Eastern Galicia and in Volhynia was also plentiful. Jewish historians Tatiana Berenstein and Adam Rutkowski list several examples of help extended by entire rural communities. In Kretówka, in Tarnopol voivodship, “several dozen Jews were able to move about almost freely because the whole village shielded them from the Nazis.” In Woronówka near Ludwipol, Volhynia, “the collusion of the peasants was cemented by blood ties: every villager was either a Kuriata or a Torgoń. The peasants in Kościejów, in the vicinity of which ran the railway line leading to the extermination camp at Bełżec, tended to Jews who jumped out of the ‘death trains.’ They not only brought them food and clothing but also sent word to Jews in the nearby village of Kulików to come and fetch the heavily injured immediately; the rest were taken by the peasants themselves to Kulików under cover of darkness. In Bar [near Gródek Jagielloński] villagers supplied a group of 18 Jews hiding in the neighbouring woods with food; they came into the village at night for their provisions and thanks to this help were able to hold out until the area was liberated by the Soviet Army.” See Berenstein and Rutkowski, Assistance to the Jews in Poland 1939–1945, pp.27, 45–46; Bartoszewski and Lewin, Righteous Among Nations, p.444. One of those rescued praises the “noble attitude of the entire population, without exception, of the Polish village of Bar” (near Gródek Jagielloński) who helped more than twenty people hiding in nearby forests to survive. See Gerszon Taffet, Zagłada Żydów żółkiewskich (Łódź: Centralna Żydowska Komisja Historyczna, 1946), p.62; Bartoszewski and Lewin, Righteous Among Nations, p.444. Almost every Polish family in the hamlet of Zawołocze near Ludwipol, in Volhynia, sheltered or helped Jews. None of the Jews were betrayed. See Chodorska, Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny, Part Two, pp.77–78. Jews hiding in the forests in the vicinity of Berezne (Bereźne) near Kostopol, Volhynia, received extensive assistance from Polish villagers and partisans. See the account of Seweryn Dobroszklanka, Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw) archive, record group 301, testimony 1222; Wroński and Zwolakowa, Polacy Żydzi 1939–1945, pp.324–25. Polish villages in the vicinity of Korzec, Volhynia, helped Jews hiding in the forests. See Nyuma Anapolsky, “We survived thanks to the kind
people—Ukrainians and Poles,’ in Boris Zabarko, ed., Holocaust in the Ukraine (London and Portland, Oregon:
Vallentine Mitchell, 2005), pp.10–11. A report about the village of Stara Huta near Szumsk, in Volhynia, states:
“The people of a small Polish village named Stara Hota [sic] welcomed a group of Jews to stay and hide in their homes. The Ukrainians found out about the Jewish presence in the village. They informed the Germans right away. The Poles had managed to help the Jews run into the fields, but they were all caught and killed during their escape.” See Ruth Sztejnman Halperin, “The Last Days of Shumsk,” in H. Rabin, ed., Szumsk: Memorial Book of the Martyrs of Szumsk, Internet: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/szumsk/szumsk.html, translation of Shumsk: Sefer zikaron le-kedoshei Shumsk (Tel Aviv: Former Residents of Szumsk in Israel, 1968), pp.29ff.
Dawid Sasower recalls: “near Zaturne [near Łuck], there was a Polish village in which about twenty Jews lived. In the daytime they worked in the fields and at night the Poles gave them rifles so that they could protect themselves from the banderovtsy [Ukrainian nationalist partisans].” See Rima Dulkinienė and Kerry Keys, eds., Su adata širdyje: Getų ir koncentracijos stovyklų kalinių atsiminimai; With a Needle in the Heart: Memoirs of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentraion Camps (Vilnius: Garnelis and Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, 2003), pp.319–20. Regarding conditions in Kosów near Kołomyja, Bronia Beker states: “My aunt didn’t have to hide. She was so well loved and respected by all because she always helped the poorest of the poor, that while she was walking around freely, living among the ruins nobody gave her away. … The people in the town also made sure she had food at all times.” See her account in “Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters,” www.interlog.com/~mighty/personal/bronia.htm, originally published in the Journal of the Center for Holocaust Studies, vol. 6, no. 4 (spring 1990). Samuel Eisen, a teenager who survived in the forest near Tłuste, recalled: “We had no money, but in the village nearby lived a lot of Poles who knew us and were good to us. They were afraid to hide us but they gave us food.” See Maria Hochberg-Mariańska and Noe Grüss, eds., The Children
Accuse (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1996), p.206. Maria Fischer Zahn, who hid near Zborów, stated:
297 “Everybody in the neighborhood knew we were hiding, but nobody told the Germans. The people in Jezierna were good people. They didn’t give us away. They helped us with food. We couldn’t have survived without them.” See Carole Garbuny Vogel, We Shall Not Forget!: Memories of the Holocaust, Second edition (Lexington, Massachusetts: Temple Isaiah, 1995), p.280, and also p.276. Shlomo Berger, who passed as a Pole in a small town near Czortków, working for Tadeusz Duchowski, the Polish director of a company, recalled: “I rented a room in Niźniów with one of the Polish workers. I learned from him that the man who was in charge of the office was the son of a judge who was a Jew who had converted to Catholicism. The son was probably raised as a Christian, but by German criteria he was still Jewish. The people at the office knew who he was, but nobody said anything.” See Ronald J. Berger, Constructing a Collective Memory of the Holocaust: A Life History of Two Brothers’ Survival (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1995), p.55. A number of Jews were sheltered by Polish villagers in Ułaszkowce near Czortków. See Abraham Morgenstern, Chortkov Remembered: The Annihilation of a Jewish Community (Dumont, New Jersey: n.p., 1990), pp.83–84, 98. Markus Lecker, who joined up with a large group of Jews living in a forest bunker in the vicinity of Borszczów, describes their relations with a Polish settlement that provided them with food: “The colony … consisted of six houses with six Polish families living there. … These 6 Polish families were the main support for us Jewish outcasts who lived in the bunker. We used to go to the Polish colony at night and exchange whatever we had left for food … But I must say these Polish colonists did supply us with some food … even if we didn’t have what to give them in return …” See Marcus Lecker, I Remember: Odyssey of a Jewish Teenager in Eastern Europe (Montreal: The Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies, and The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, 1999), p.56. Scores of Jews were helped by the Polish villagers of Hanaczów, about 40 km east of Lwów. See Jerzy Węgierski, W lwowskiej Armii Krajowej (Warsaw: Pax, 1989), pp.77–78; Eliyahu Yones, Smoke in the Sand: The Jews of Lvov in the War Years 1939–1944 (Jerusalem and New York: Gefen, 2004), pp.227–28; Chodorska, Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny, Part Two, pp.204–207; Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vol. 5: Poland, Part 2, pp.886–87. Other examples of communal assistance by Poles are recorded in the following publications: Abraham Weissbord, Death of a Shtetl, Internet: http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Skalat1/Skalat.html, translation of Es shtarbt a shtetl: Megiles Skalat (Munich: Central Historical Commission of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the U.S. Zone of Germany, 1948), p.65 (Ostra Mogiła near Skałat: “The people in this village were friendly to the Jews and provided them with whatever they could. … Twenty-nine Jews survived in Ostra-Mogila.”); Wroński and Zwolakowa, Polacy Żydzi 1939–1945, p.263 (Konińsk near Sarny), p.265 (Pańska Dolina near Dubno), p.266 (Świnarzyn near Dominopol), p.307 (an entire street in the city of Przemyśl was aware of a Jewish hideout), pp.324–25 (in the vicinity of Bereźne near Kostopol), p.327 (Woronówka near Ludwipol), pp.361 and 389 (Obórki), p.386 (Wólka Kotowska near Łuck), p.392 (Przebraże); Edward Prus, Holocaust po banderowsku:
Czy Żydzi byli w UPA? (Wrocław: Nortom, 1995), p.82 (Zdołbunów), p.144 (Adamy), p.167 (Huta Brodzka);
Bronisław Szeremeta, “Zagłada wsi Adamy—rok 1943,” Semper Fidelis (Wrocław), no. 1 (14), 1993: p.19 (Adamy); Asher Tarmon, ed., Memorial Book: The Jewish Communities of Manyevitz, Horodok, Lishnivka, Troyanuvka, Povursk, and Kolki (Wolyn Region) [Tel-Aviv: Organization of Survivors of Manyevitz, Horodok, Lishnivka, Troyanuvka, Povursk, Kolki and Surroundings Living in Israel and Overseas, 2004], pp.39–40, 67– 68, 74, 85 (Konińsk near Sarny); E. Leoni, ed.
Rokitno (Volin) ve-ha-sevivah: Sefer edut ve-zikaron (Tel Aviv:
Former Residents of Rokitno in Israel, 1967), translated as Rokitno-Wolyn and Surroundings: Memorial Book and Testimony, Internet: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/rokitnoye/Rokitnoye.html, pp.293ff. (Blizhov—“I must say that these peasants treated us fairly well. In the area of Blizhov there were no attacks or denunciations of Jews.”); pp.317ff. (Netreba and Okopy near Kisorycze), pp.327ff. (Netreba), pp.334ff. (Netreba, Borowskie Budki, and Okopy—“in the village of Netrebe [sic], tens of Jews from Rokitno and the area found shelter. They were helped by the villagers who not only did not harm them but also hid them near the village during the day. At night they took them to their homes. Many Jews survived there until the liberation by the Red Army. In the Polish village of Budki some Jews survived... In the same area, in the Polish village of Okopi [sic], some tens of Jews were saved thanks to two special individuals… the Catholic priest [Rev. Ludwik Wrodarczyk] and the village teacher. The priest used to give sermons to his followers telling them not to be involved in the extermination of Jews. He asked them to help the Jews to survive … The village teacher also had compassion for the unfortunate Jews. Their suffering touched her heart and she helped in any way possible. She was killed by a Ukrainian gang 298 on the way from the village of Rokitno where she was helping a Jewish family. The priest was burned alive in his church.”), pp.342ff. (Netreba), p.351 (“in a Polish village near Snodovich [Snodowicze], we found a few Jewish
families working in the houses and fields of the villagers”); Yehuda Bauer, “Sarny and Rokitno in the Holocaust:
A Case Study of Two Townships in Wolyn (Volhynia),” in Steven T. Katz, ed., The Shtetl: New Evaluations (New York and London: New York University Press, 2007), 273 (Okopy, Budki Borowskie, Dołhań, and Netreba); Denise Nevo and Mira Berger, eds., We Remember: Testimonies of Twenty-four Members of Kibbutz Megiddo who Survived the Holocaust (New York: Shengold, 1994), p.209 (Huta Sopaczewska near Sarny), 257 (Polish villages near the village of Berezołupy near Rożyszcze: “When I arrived in the Polish village, someone told me that five kilometers from there, here was another Polish village where I might find my brother … I went there and asked the farmers about him. They told me where to go, and I found him in a forest, with a group of six other Jews. … They too had spent the winter in the forest, and at night they had brought potatoes and bread from the Polish village. … I was accepted by an older couple … My brother also got a job with another Polish farmer, about four kilometers from the village where I was. … I stayed with that farmer for almost a year, until the
Russians freed our area in April 1944.”); Yitzhak Ganuz, ed., Our Town Stepan, Internet:
http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/stepan/Stepan.html, translation of Ayaratenu Stepan (Tel Aviv: Stepan Society, 1977), pp.213ff. (Karaczun near Kostopol, where both the Polish underground and Polish villagers were extremely helpful to Jews who hid in the forest), 287 (Huta Stepańska); Stanisław Siekierski, ed., Żyli wśród nas…: Wspomnienia Polaków i Żydów nadesłane na konkurs pamięci polsko-żydowskiej o nagrodę imienia Dawida Ben Guriona (Płońsk: Zarząd Miasta Płońsk, Miejskie Centrum Kultury w Płońsku, and Towarzystwo Miłośników Ziemi Płońskiej, 2001), p.121 (Karaczun near Kostpol); Sonya Tesler-Gyraph, “Memories from the Nazi Period,” in Yosef Kariv, ed., Horchiv Memorial Book (Tel Aviv: Horchiv Committee in Israel, 1966), p.63 (a village near Horochów); Donald L. Niewyk ed., Fresh Wounds: Early Narratives of Holocaust Survival (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998), p.164 (Huta Olejska near Lwów); Isaiah Trunk, Jewish Responses to Nazi Persecution: Collective and Individual Behavior in Extremis (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), pp.250–52 (Kurdybań Warkowicki, Bortnica, Pańska Dolina, Żeniówka, all in Volhynia); Account of Mordechai Tennenbaum in Israel Zinman, ed., Memorial for Greater Mezirich: In Construction and Destruction (Haifa: Organization of Meziritsh Association, 1999), Internet: www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/mezhirichi/ (a
Polish village in the vicinity of Międzyrzec near Równe, Volhynia); Daniel Kac, Koncert grany żywym (Warsaw:
Tu, 1998), p.183 (Przebraże and Huta Stepańska, in Volhynia); Andrzej Żbikowski, ed., Polacy i Żydzi pod okupacją niemiecką 1939–1945: Studia i materiały (Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowek—Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2006), p.309 (a Polish settlement near Aleksandria in Volhynia where all the villagers knew about and assisted the sisters Cypa and Rywa Szpanberg); Stepan Makarczuk, “Straty ludności w Galicji Wschodniej w latach II wojny światowej (1939–1945),” in Polska–Ukraina: Trudne pytania, vol. 6 (Warsaw: Światowy Związek Żołnierzy Armii Krajowej, Związek Ukraińców w Polsce, and Karta, 2000), p.240 (Rakowiec and Hołosko Wielkie, both near Lwów); “Letter of Chayeh Kanner,” Khurbn Glinyane (New York: New York: Emergency Relief Committee for Gliniany and Vicinity, 1946), translated as The Tragic End of Our Gliniany, Internet: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/glinyany1/Glinyany1.html (“The few Jews of Gliniany who saved their lives were hiding in the woods near Zeniow [Żeniów]. The Polish peasants of that village supplied their food.”); Reuben Ainsztein, Jewish Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Poland (with a historical survey of the Jew as fighter and soldier in the Diaspora) (London: Paul Elek, 1974), pp.450–53 (Dzwonica, Huta Pieniacka, Huta Werchobuska near Złoczów); Shlomo Blond, et al., eds., Memorial Book of Tlumacz: The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Community (Tel Aviv: Tlumacz Societies in Israel and the U.S.A., 1976), column clxxiv (Horyhlady or Horyglady near Tłumacz, and Wojciechówka near Skałat); Alicia ApplemanJurman, Alicia: My Story (New York: Bantam, 1988), pp.149, 157 (Horyhlady or Horyglady near Tłumacz, and Wojciechówka near Buczacz); Etunia Bauer Katz, Our Tomorrows Never Came (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), pp.98–99 (Matuszówka near Buczacz); Elżbieta Isakiewicz, Harmonica: Jews Relate How Poles Saved Them from the Holocaust (Warsaw: Polska Agencja Informacyjna, 2001), pp.106–108 (Dźwinogród near Buczacz); Yehuda Bauer, “Buczacz and Krzemieniec: The Story of Two Towns During the Holocaust,” in Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 33 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, 2005), p.298 (Nowosiółka Koropiecka near Buczacz); David Ravid (Shmukler), ed., The Cieszanow Memorial book (Mahwah, New Jersey: Jacob Solomon Berger, 2006), pp.190–91 299 (Wojciechówka near Buczacz); account of Rose (Raisel) Metzak, posted at http://voices.iit.edu/frames.asp?path+Interviews/&page=meltz&ext=_.t.html (Hucisko Olejskie near Złoczów—“It is a Polish village … The gentiles were also very kind. We were there. We slept in barns. We slept
here a day, here a day, here a night.”); Hersch Altman, One the Fields of Loneliness (New York and Jerusalem:
Yad Vashem and The Holocaust Survivors’ Memors Project, 2006), 139ff. (the Polish village of Hucisko near Brzeżany, a Home Army base). Spontaneous assistance was much more frequent than is often assumed, as illustrated by the following examples. In October 1942, after the liquidation of the ghetto in Zdołbunów, the Germans and Ukrainian militiamen combed the town to locate any signs of survivors: “[Fritz] Germ would point to a certain house, always one occupied by Polish citizens, and the guards would crash through the door or a window, emerging with a family and the Jews whom they had hidden. The fate was the same for the rescuers as it
was for the Jews. This occurred at four or five different homes.” See Douglas K. Huneke, The Moses of Rovno:
The Stirring Story of Fritz Graebe, a German Christian Who Risked His Life to Lead Hundreds of Jews to Safety During the Holocaust (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1985), p.84. Irene Gut Opdyke, a Polish rescuer recalled: “There was a priest in Janówka [near Tarnopol]. He knew about the Jews’ escape—many of the Polish people knew about it. … Many people brought food and other things—not right to the forest, but to the edge—from the village. The priest could not say directly ‘help the Jews,’ but he would say in church, ‘not one of you should take the blood of your brother.’ … During the next couple of weeks there were posters on every street corner saying, ‘This is a Jew-free town, and if any one should help an escaped Jew, the sentence is death.’” See Carol Rittner and Sondra Myers, eds., The Courage to Care: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (New York: New York University Press, 1986), pp.47–48. The warning soon became a terrifying reality when the town square in Tarnopol “was choked with a milling, bewildered crowd. SS men abruptly pushed me into the middle of the square, just as they had the others, with a command not to leave. A scaffold had been erected in the center of the square, and what appeared to be two separate families were slowly escorted through the crowd to the block. A Polish couple, holding two small children, were brought up first, followed by a Jewish couple with one child, all three wearing the yellow Star of David. Both groups were lined up in front of dangling nooses. They were going to hang the children as well! Why didn’t somebody do something? What could be done? Finally, their ‘crimes’ were announced—the Polish family had been caught harboring the Jewish family! Thus we were forced to witness
the punishment for helping or befriending a Jew.” See Irene Gut Opdyke with Jeffrey M. Elliot, Into the Flames:
The Life Story of a Righteous Gentile (San Bernardino, California: The Borgo Press, 1992), p.139. Public executions of Poles who had helped Jews became commonplace in an effort to instil fear into the population. See Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One, Entry 482 (Stryj). About twenty residents of Berecz, in Volhynia, were killed during a pacification of that Polish settlement by Ukrainian police in November 1942 for assisting Jews who had escaped from the ghetto in Powursk (Powórsk). See Władyslaw Siemaszko and Ewa Siemaszko,
Ludobójstwo dokonane przez nacjonalistów ukraińskich na ludności polskiej Wołynia, 1939–1945 (Warsaw:
von borowiecky, 2000), vol. 1, p.363. In Huta Werchobuska or Werchobudzka (near Złoczów) and Huta Pieniacka (near Brody), the Polish villagers were simply annihilated and their homes and farmsteads burned down in German pacifications (the primary perpetrators were the SS Galizien forces) brought on in part by longstanding assistance provided to Jews. See Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One, pp.154–55; Tsvi Weigler, “Two Polish Villages Razed for Extending Help to Jews,” Yad Washem Bulletin, no. 1 (April 1957): pp.19–20;
Ainsztein, Jewish Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe, pp.450–53; Na Rubieży (Wrocław), no. 10 (1994): pp.10–11 (Huta Werchodudzka); Na Rubieży, no. 12 (1995): pp.7–20 (Huta Pieniacka); Na Rubieży, no.
54 (2001): pp.18–29. Feiwel Auerbach, a Jew from Sasów, made the following deposition shortly after the war:
“There were 30 of us [Jews] in the forest. We hid in Huta Werchobuska and Huta Pieniacka. The Polish inhabitants of those villages helped us. The peasants were very poor and were themselves hungry but they shared with us their last bits of food. We stayed there from July 1943 until March 1944. Thanks to them we are alive.
When there were manhunts, the village reeve warned us. Once 500 Germans encircled the forest, but since they were afraid to enter deep into the forest they set their dogs on us. We were saved because our Polish friends warned us of the impending danger. Because of a denunciation [by the Ukrainian police] all of the villagers of Huta Pieniacka and Huta Werchobuska were killed. Some of them were burned alive in a barn. The village was burned to the ground.” Auerbach’s account can be found in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (document no. 1200). In Polesie (Polesia), a largely Belorussian area, Kopel Kolpanitzky describes the helpfulness of the 300 residents of Zahorie [Zahorze], a small village of Polish Catholics three kilometers from Łachwa, which the Germans later burned to the ground. See Kopel Kolpanitzky, Sentenced To Life: The Story of a Survivor of the Lahwah Ghetto (London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2007), pp.89–96. Shulamit Zabinska, a teenage girl who was sheltered by Poles in the Wilno countryside, recalled that many Poles brought food to the ghetto, “otherwise everyone would have starved to death. It was dangerous, and people were shot for this.” After escaping from the ghetto she was taken in by Weronika (“Wercia”) Stankiewicz and her mother, passing as Wercia’s niece. Although the villagers knew she was Jewish no one betrayed her.
See Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski, Zegota: The Rescue of Jews in Wartime Poland (Montreal: Price-Patterson, 1994), pp.117– 18; and the revised edition Żegota: The Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942–1945 (Montreal:
Price-Paterson, 1999), p.110. Similarly, Estera Bielicka was taken in by the Myślicki family in Matejkany where she lived openly. Although the villagers knew about her Jewish origin, no one betrayed her. See Wiktor Noskowski, “Czy Yaffa Eliach przeprosi Polaków?” Myśl Polska (Warsaw), July 20–27, 1997. The neighbours of a Polish family in Białozoryszki near Wilno were aware that that family was sheltering a Jewish boy. See Chodorska, Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny, Part One, pp.104–109. Pola Wawer, a doctor from Wilno, recalled the help she and her parents received from all of the inhabitants in the hamlet of Zameczek who consisted of the families of five cousins. See Pola Wawer, Poza gettem i obozem (Warsaw: Volumen, 1993), p.71. Another Jew from the Wilno region recalled the assistance he and his father received from the villagers of Powiłańce on a number of occasions: “The village was composed of some forty houses strung out side by side on a single street.
Each house was inhabited by Poles, but my father knew many of them and had done favours for them in the past.
At each house, we knocked and explained our plight. Only a few turned us down … Very soon our wagon was filled with butter and eggs and flour and fresh vegetables, and my father and I wept at their kindness and at the realization that we had been reduced to beggars. The people of Powielancy were so generous … Now we sent out a food gathering group each evening to beg in the neighbouring villages where most of the people felt kindly toward us. One of the villages in this area was Powielancy whose people had filled our cart with food when father and I had come from the Radun [Raduń] ghetto. They helped us again most willingly for they sympathized with our plight.” See Leon Kahn (as told to Marjorie Morris), No Time To Mourn: A True Story of a Jewish Partisan Fighter (Vancouver: Laurelton Press, 1978), pp.55, 124. Meir Stoler, who escaped the German massacre of Jews in Raduń on May 10, 1942, managed to reach the tiny Polish hamlet of Mizhantz [Mieżańce], where the villagers took him in and gave him food. See Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (Toronto: Key Porter, 2003), p.19. The village of Mieżańce is mentioned in other accounts as friendly to the Jews.
See the testimony of Beniamin Rogowski, March 14, 1965, Yad Vashem Archives, 03/2820. Murray Berger of Wsielub near Nowogródek attests to receiving extensive help from numerous villagers from December 1941, when he left the ghetto, until he joined up with the Bielski unit the following year. (His account is in the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives.) Sarah Fishkin of Rubieżewicze left a diary attesting to repeated acts of
kindness by villagers in that area. See Anna Eilenberg-Eibeshitz, Remember! A Collection of Testimonies (Haifa:
H. Eibeshitz Institute for Holocaust Studies, 1999), pp.285–306. The Krepski family of Helenów near Stołpce sheltered Shimon Kantorowicz for two years. Even though almost the entire village was aware of this, no one betrayed them. Information from Yad Vashem, case no. 5844. In Poznań, in Western Poland, a stronghold of the National Democratic (Endek) Party, relations with the Jews imprisoned in the Stadion labour camp in 1941–1943 were amicable. Samuel Bronowski, who appeared as a witness in the trial of Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter of the socalled Wartheland, made the following deposition before the Supreme National Tribunal: “The only help possible was aid in kind by supplying food. In the camp we received 200 grams of bread and one litre of turnip soup per day. Obviously, those who had no help from outside were bound to die within a short time. A committee was formed in Poznań for the collection of food. This was no easy matter since everything was rationed under the food coupon system. Many a time, we received bigger parcels which reached us secretly at the construction sites where we worked and met the Polish people. Parcels were also thrown into the camp by night. It is not easy to describe the attitude of the civilian population outside the camp—to say that it was friendly, would be too little. There was marked compassion. There has not been a single case in Poznań of a Pole who would betray a Jew escaping the camp. There has not been a single case on the construction site of a foreman striking a Jew without immediate reaction on the part of the Polish co-workers. Those Jews who survived did so only thanks to the help from the Polish population of Poznań.” Maks Moszkowicz, another inmate of the Stadion labour camp, stated in his 301 deposition for Yad Vashem: “I wish to stress that the behaviour of the Polish population in Poznań towards us, the Jewish prisoners, was very friendly and when our labour battalions were coming out of the camp, people— mostly women—waited for us in the street in order to throw us food in spite of severe interdictions and punishment.” See Bartoszewski, The Blood Shed Unites Us, p.225. People readily recognizable as Jews who spoke poor Polish were able to survive in the Western Polish countryside, without being betrayed: “[Alexander] said that he had gone through the war with a false identity. It sounds like a joke with his Yiddish accented Polish, with his looks. ‘I presented myself as a Lithuanian, I had no papers, I had no money, but I was young and strong.
… I escaped westward, to the Poznan [Poznań] region where Jews were hardly known. I worked in the village, at the farm of somebody … He didn’t pay me anything. … What matters is that he fed me, gave me some rags to
wear, and I lived like a king.’” See Ephraim F. Sten, 1111 Days In My Life Plus Four (Takoma Park, Maryland:
Dryad Press, in association with the University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pp.66–67. A Jewish woman from Butrimonys (Butrymańce) recalled the widespread assistance of the local Polish minority in interwar Lithuanian territories: “Parankova [Parankowa] became known among us unfortunate Jews as a Polish hamlet where nobody would hand you over to the murderers; ‘to me Parankova is truly the Jerusalem of Lithuania’.” See Rivka Lozansky Bogomolnaya, Wartime Experiences in Lithuania (London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2000), p.75. See also If I Forget The…: The Destruction of the Shtetl Butrimantz. Testimony by Riva Lozansky and Other Witnesses (Washington, DC: Remembrance Books, 1998), passim; and the testimony of Sarah Epstein (Sara Epshteyn) in Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman, The Unkown Black Book: The Holocaust in the GermanOccupied Soviet Territories (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2008), p.297 (villages near Stakliškės or Stokliszki).
Szymon Datner, long-time director of Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute:
“In my research I have found only one case of help being refused [by nuns]. No other sector was so ready to help those persecuted by the Germans, including the Jews; this attitude, which was unanimous and widespread, deserves recognition and respect.”105
Yehuda Bauer, Israeli historian:
“Nor was the Catholic clergy any help at all. With some very honorable exceptions, the clergy by and large not only echoed the antisemitic sentiments, but led them. … Against the background of church antisemitism in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, the action of the Uniate archbishop of Lwow [Lwów], Count Andreas Szeptycki, who ordered his clergy to save Jews despite his antisemitic views, stands out. So do the actions of the Ursuline sisters, and other individual monastic houses and occasional village priests.”106
“I do not accuse anyone that did not hide or help a Jew. We cannot demand from others to sacrifice their lives. One has no right to demand such risks.” 107 “Everyone who states the view that helping Jews was during those times a reality, a duty and nothing more should think long and hard how he himself would behave in that situation. I admit that that I am not sure that I could summon up enough courage in the conditions of raging Nazi terror.”108 One Polish Jew who often asked this question of Jewish survivors recalled: “The answer was always the same and it is mine too. I do not know if I would have endangered my life to save a Christian.”109 “I am not at all sure that I would give a bowl of food to a Pole if it could mean death for me and my daughter,”a Jewish woman admitted candidly.110 “Today, with the perspective of time, I am full of admiration for the courage and dedication … of all those Poles who in those times, day in, day out, put their lives on the line. I do not know if we Jews, in the face of the tragedy of another nation, would be equally capable of this kind of sacrifice.”111 “And what right did I have to condemn them? Why should they risk themselves and their families for a Jewish boy they didn’t know? Would I have behaved any differently? I knew the answer to that, too. I wouldn’t have lifted a finger. Everyone was equally intimidated.”112 “I’m not surprised people didn’t want to hide Jews. Everyone was afraid, who would risk his family’s lives? You can accuse the ones who kept a Jew, exploited him financially, and later gave him away or killed him. They’re murderers.
But you absolutely can’t blame an average Pole, I don’t know if anyone would be more decent, if any Jew would be more decent.”113 “When I later traveled in the world and Jews would talk to me about how badly Poles behaved with respect to Jews, that they didn’t hide them, I always had this answer: ‘All right, they could have done more. But I wonder how many 105 Szymon Datner, “Wydział ochrony człowieka,” Znak (Kraków), no. 347 (1983), p.1607.
106 Yehuda Bauer, The Holocaust in Historical Persepective (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), pp.57, 59–60.
107 Pola Stein cited in Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p.129.
108 Hanna Wehr, Ze wspomnień (Montreal: Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada, 2001).
109 Cited in Marc Hillel, Le massacre des survivants: En Pologne après l’holocauste (1945–1947) (Paris: Plon, 1985), p.99.
110 Cited in Małgorzata Niezabitowska, Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland (New York: Friendly Press, 1986), p.249.
111 Janka Altman cited in Marek Arczyński and Wiesław Balcerak, Kryptonim “Żegota”: Z dziejów pomocy Żydom w Polsce 1939–1945, 2nd edition (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1983), p.264.
112 Roman Frister, The Cap, or the Price of a Life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p.194.
113 Henryk Prajs, January 2005, Internet: http://www.centropa.org (Biographies).
“To tell the truth, I don’t know whether today … there are many Jews who would do the same for another nation. We were another nation …”115 “One must pay tribute to those Poles who lost their lives rescuing Jews. Moreover, one cannot blame those who did not rescue Jews. We should not forget that one cannot demand heroism from ordinary, average people. True there are times and causes that demand heroism, but only certain individuals can aspire to that. One cannot harbour illfeelings towards or have grounds for complaining about someone for not attaining that level.”116
“‘Now you see why we hate the Polacks,’ one survivor concluded her account, in which she presented many instances of Poles’ help. There was no word about hating the Germans.”117 “The Wanderers were among the luckiest Jewish families in town. Both parents and the girls survived the war.
They were hidden successively by several Polish families. After the war, the Wanderers emigrated to America. I sent the Wanderer sisters information about the Regulas, one of the Polish families in whose house on the outskirts of Brzeżany they had hid after the Judenrein roundup. I hoped that they would start the procedure of granting them the Righteous Gentiles award, but nothing came of it. … When I called Rena, the older one, and asked whether a young Polish historian, a colleague of mine who was doing research in New York, could interview her for my project on Brzeżany, her reaction was curt and clear: ‘I hate all Polacks.’ … Rena advised me not to present the Poles in too favorable a way ‘for the sake of our martyrs.’”118 Ephraim Sten (Sternschuss), one of more than forty Jews rescued by a number of Polish families in the village of
“They (the Poles) had no objection to the job being perpetrated by the Germans … That is why the overwhelming majority did not lift a finger to help. … Poland was the perfect center for the Jewish liquidation.”119
Menachem Begin, former Israeli Prime Minister:
“What concerns the Jews, the Poles have been collaborating with the Germans. … only at most one hundred people have been helping Jews. … Polish priests did not save even one Jewish life.”120
“We had so many enemies! … the Poles betrayed them. True, here and there a ‘good’ citizen was found whose cooperation could be bought [sic] with Jewish money. But how many good-hearted, upright Poles were to be found at the time in Poland? Very few.” 121 114 Ewa S. (Stapp), September 2005, Internet: http://www.centropa.org (Biographies).
115 Testimony of Bencjon Drutin in Marzena Baum-Gruszowska and Dominika Majuk, eds., Swiatła w ciemności: Sprawiedliwi wśród narodów świata. Relacje historii mówionej w działaniach edukacyjnych (Lublin: Ośrodek “Brama Grodzka–Teatr NN,” 2009), p.58.
116 Henryk Bryskier, Żydzi pod swastyką czyli getto w Warszawie w XX wieku (Warsaw: Aspra-Jr, 2006), p.231.
117 Cited in Eva Hoffman, Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p.245.
118 Shimon Redlich, Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1918–1945 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), p.22.
119 Ephraim F. Sten, 1111Days In My Life Plus Four (Takoma Park, Maryland: Dryad Press, in association with the University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pp.31–32. Yet the author records, at p.75, a raid on the village of Jelechowice where several Polish families were sheltering more than 40 Jews (including him): “Today was some panic because last night Hryc informed us about the police arriving … looking for Jews. … there were area combings, the Wehrmacht arrived, as well as the foresters and police, and they went from house to house, from forest to forest, because Jews were hiding in the environs.” 120 Said on Dutch television in 1979. Cited in Stewart Stevens, The Poles (St. James’s Place, London: Collins/Harvill, 1982), p.317.
Stevens, a Jew, described this outburst as “a disgraceful statement in which Begin disgraced himself and dishonored his own people.” 121 Introduction to Vladka Meed, On Both Sides of the Wall: Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto (New York: Holocaust Library, 1979), pp.3–4.
“It was a period in which the morality of the Church was tested. The clergy should have voiced their objections to the murders and extended help to the victims, despite risks to themselves. An outcry on their part would not have changed the Germans’ annihilation policies …”122
Meir Lau, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, who survived the war in hiding:
“The Gentiles … are interested in one thing only: to see the Jews devastated. … Take such a big country as Poland before World War II. The Jews made it fruitful and turned it into a blooming country, with a flourishing economy, industry and agriculture. And look at it now, after WWII, after 3.5 million Jews abandoned her. It is an island of destruction, a country failing in all areas, in its economy, its industry, and socially as well. Nevertheless, a great many Poles cooperated with the Nazis in the annihilation, G-d forbid, of the Jewish people. The six largest extermination camps were located on Polish territory. They knew that with the loss of the Jews they would suffer dearly. But it did not deter them, for this is the nature of anti-Semitism—to destroy the Jewish nation, instead of benefiting from them.” 123
Rabbi Joseph Polak, director of the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University:
“While Poland boasts the largest number of righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, it has still not fully embraced the moral challenge of why it did so little to save so many others.”124
Rabbi Charles Grysman of Vaughan, Ontario, child of a Holocaust survivor:
“True, there were indeed thousands of Righteous Gentiles … But there were also many Poles who … watched passively while Jews were disenfranchised, humiliated, abused and confined to ghettos or simply were able to turn their heads away as entire Jewish populations were deported from towns and villages to labour and death camps.”125
Rabbi Abraham D. Feffer of Toronto, a Holocaust survivor from Drobin:
“Yet many fortunate survivors from my own shtetl, remember well and with great fondness and admiration the help of the brave Christian farmers who lived in nearby villages where we worked on cold winter days. (In Poland, hiding a Jew, or feeding him was punishable by death, usually hanging). We remember how these men and women, at great peril, opened their poor “chatkis” [cottages] to share with us warm soup, bread and potatoes.”126
Cantor Matus Radzivilover, formerly of Warsaw, who survived the war in hiding:
“I never had the tendency to be a nationalist. I am positively devoted to my Jewish brethren and I am proud of my heritage, but I also loved the country of my birth, Poland. I loved my neighbors, the Poles I grew up with and lived with in love and peace. I never accused them of failing to help us because they were in great danger themselves.
Hundreds of thousands of them were killed or deported to concentration camps. They paid their price under Nazism, too. Hitler’s intentions were to exterminate the Poles after he was done with the Jews.”127
Hanna Szper Cohen, a native of Lublin, who was rescued by unknown Poles on several occasions:
“To this day I say—since Jews have bad feelings about Poles—I assert that we who survived, a small percentage though it be, none of us would have survived if in some moment he did not get help, usually without ulterior motives, from some Pole. It was impossible to survive otherwise.”128
Szymon Datner, former director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and Holocaust survivor:
122 Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press; Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009), 449–50.
123 An adaptation of a Dvar Torah on Arutz 7. Cited in The Jewish Press, Brooklyn, August 13, 1993.
124 Joseph Polak, “The Silence lifts on Poland’s Jews,” The Boston Globe, July 28, 2007.
125 Rabbi Abraham D. Feffer, My Shtetl Drobin: A Saga of a Survivor (Toronto: n.p., 1990), p.22.
126 Rabbi Charles Grysman, “Not All Poles Were Innocent,” The National Post, May 16, 2008.
127 Matus Radzivilover, Now or Never: A Time For Survival (New York: Frederick Fell, 1979), p.82.
Julian Cohen, Escape from Belzec: Saved By a Pair of Heels, Internet:
Raul Hilberg, preeminent Holocaust historian:
“Overall, the general Polish population is not mentioned in German documents in respect of its participation as harassing Jews and helping the Germans. To the contrary; many German reports indicate that Poles felt anxiety for their own safety after the Jews disappeared. There are some German documents that mention some Poles, notably Polish police, railroad-workers and low-level employees in German offices but there was no Polish central authority collaborating with the Germans, as we find in e.g. Norway and its Quisling government or France and its Vichy regime. This was never the case in Poland.
As was the case in many European countries, there were also Polish individuals that played extortion games with Jews, but then there were also Poles that helped Jews under risk of facing death penalty from the German occupants. Both categories were relatively small in comparison to the general population, albeit one must take into consideration that most survivors made it through the war by Polish help and protection. A friend of mine, Bronia Klebanski, who is Jewish but lived on the ‘Aryan’ side of society and was an active member of the Jewish underground in the Bialystok [Białystok] area, once told me a story of how she at a time took the train during the war, and was suddenly pointed out by a little girl who yelled ‘Jew!’. All the Polish passengers sat quietly, and nobody said anything to instigate further interest. This account is a small example of the general practice of noncollaboration among the Poles during the war.
… In Ukraine, contrary to Poland, where the Germans built secluded death camps, Jews were often massacred on the spot. The Nazi death camps in occupied Poland such as Treblinka, Belzec [Bełżec], Sobibor [Sobibór] and Chelmno [Chełmno] were all hidden to the public.”130 Israel Gutman, historian at Yad Vashem, editor-in-chief of The Encylopedia of the Holocaust, and Warsaw ghetto
“This feeling of identification of Poles from all social spheres and their anti-German solidarity is a previously unheard of historical achievement and one of Europe’s greatest under Nazi occupation. I should like to make two things clear here. First, all accusations against the Poles that they were responsible for what is referred to as the ‘Final Solution’ are not even worth mentioning. Secondly, there is no validity at all in the contention that … Polish attitudes were the reason for the siting of the death camps in Poland.
Poland was a completely occupied country. There was a difference in the kind of ‘occupation’ countries underwent in Europe. Each country experienced a different occupation and almost all had a certain amount of autonomy, limited and defined in various ways. This autonomy did not exist in Poland. No one asked the Poles how one should treat the Jews.”131 “Only in Poland did the Germans impose such draconian punishments (i.e., death) for helping Jews. Yet despite that, Poles constitute the largest number of “Righteous.” To a great extent, it is the “Righteous” who have changed the Israelis’ perception of Poland. That is what influenced me. I too, at first, accepted these negative stereotypes as truth. Collaborators, blackmailers, neighbours who wouldn’t help. That’s what was said in all articles, in books. But when Yad Vashem published its Encyclopedia of the Righteous – I was the editor – I was forced to examine this 129 Interview with Szymon Datner in Małgorzata Niezabitowska, Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland (New York: Friendly Press, 1986), pp.247–50.
130 Interview with Professor Raul Hilberg, June 20, 2005, available on line at http://www.maxveritas.com/pb/wp_1add70b0.html?0.611384753320024.
131 Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies (Oxford: Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies), volume 2 (1987), p.341.
Unfortunately, the pathology of anti-polonism runs deep. In a spiteful parody of a “Passion play” titled “Rebbe,” Artists For Israel International have, contrary to the documented historical record, recast Polish priests as the instigators of the death of a rabbi—a Jesus figure—in the Warsaw ghetto. (Internet: http://www.afii.org/rebbe.txt.) At this point the invasion of Poland by the Nazis begins and a series of short scenes with ominous and sad music depict the occupation of the city and the sealing off of the Jewish Quarter which now becomes the Warsaw Ghetto. Now the Nazis lock the Jewish Quarter and force the Czerniakow character to come to them and cut a deal to get the key, which he does by appointing Yehudah as the head of the Jewish police who will co-operate with the Polish police and the German occupation authorities.
The last maamar (Chassidic version of Last Supper Yn 13-17 OJBC) of Rebbe (who is now wearing a Star of David armband, as are the rest of Rebbe’s talmidim) comes as a reply to Shimon the Zealot. Shimon the Zealot speaks in the upper room to all the Rebbe’s talmidim disciples) in an impassioned manner about the boxcars leading to a death camp and the need for underground resistance fighters. When the other Shimon (Kefa or Peter) vows his part in protecting the Rebbe (Yn 13:37 OJBC), Rebbe goes to the window and looks out. With a revelatory flutter-cut Rebbe sees the tarnegol (rooster) in the wooden crate cage in the back of the passing truck, and Rebbe announces prophetically the coming betrayal. Yehudah, wearing his Chassidic garb, departs into the Warsaw night.
In the next scene Shimon Kefa and Rebbe pass the security point where Yehudah is able to flag them through, checking their passes, which are “work permits” allowing them to leave the Jewish Ghetto. Yehudah gives Rebbe a kiss on the cheek. The Polish police at the checkpoint see this and look at each other knowingly. Shimon Kefa accompanies Rebbe to a Cathedral and waits outside while Rebbe goes up to the door to knock.
Inside the Cathedral, a Catholic S.S. officer is leaving the confessional booth where he has been confessing to Father Kayafenski.
Father Nikodimski follows him out and ushers Rebbe into the vestibule of the Roman Catholic church to have a meeting with Father Kayafenski. Since it is Pesach season, Father Nikodimski hopes that the senior priest will use his ecumenical influence with a Catholic S.S. officer to have the food rations increased for the Jewish people in the Ghetto. Father Nikodimski leaves Rebbe alone in the vestibule with Father Kayafenski.
In this scene between Rebbe and Father Kayafenski, Rebbe is invited to enter the sanctuary, but he refuses because of the tzelamim (idols, images, any physical object or statue worshiped as deity). The scene that unfolds is similar in some respects to the Grand Inquisitor scene in the Brothers Karamazov. Finally, Father Kayafenski becomes angry and exits the vestibule, going outside through the front door. Rebbe begins to tear down the tzelamim, using a tall white metal candelabrum to shatter the images including that of a San Gennaro statue with the money fastened all over it). Then the Catholic S.S. Officer and Father Kayafenski burst into the sanctuary with other soldiers and police and Rebbe is bound and taken out of the Catholic church.
On the steps outside a Nazi soldier seizes Shimon Kefa, shouting, “You were with him!” Shimon Kefa curses Rebbe, and just then a truck goes by with a tarnegol (rooster) in the wooden crate cage in the back of the passing truck. Then Kefa stares at Rebbe in shock and remorse.
At the railroad terminal, in front of several empty boxcars, the Nazi soldiers cut Rebbe’s payos with their bayonets and beat him up, shouting, “You killed our G-d, we kill you.” They force Rebbe to put on a striped Holocaust death camp prison uniform, then take him to the top of a gallows, then pierce his wrists and feet with their bayonets and put him on a gallows with two other Jews in stripped Holocaust death camp prison uniforms where they leave him hanging in the middle. As a shot of Warsaw reveals the horrific evil going on throughout the city, the body of Rebbe is tossed in the boxcar with the other two Jews. We see the boxcar slowly going into the dusk of the approaching night toward the death camps.
Then, in their death camp uniforms, the talmidim (minus Yehudah as in Yn chp 21 OJBC) awaken in a boat near the shore in Lake Galilee to find themselves amazingly no longer in the Polish ghetto but now in modern Eretz Yisroel (previewed in the wedding vision earlier). The talmidim have a sense of the presence of the Moshiach. As they see Rebbe in his kaftan with his Star of David armband, standing on the seashore, they follow his instructions and throw out their net. The fish we saw at the beginning are seen again, symbolizing the world-wide fishing expedition (fishing for lost unredeemed men) of Moshiach’s Kehillah. For the camera pulls up from the fish in the giant net in an aerial shot which becomes a satellite shot of Israel and then a space station shot of the whole world as the music swells.
132 “Poles Can Be Very Proud of Sendlerowa,” Israel Gutman interviewed by Piotr Zychowicz, Rzeczpospolita (Warsaw), May 13, 2008.