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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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“Because I am a Jew.” “Ah, don’t go there.” “But I have to.” “No, you can’t go there.” … Pani Renia also put us in touch with a priest and we went to him at the Church of the Redeemer through the sacristy. He was a prelate who demanded that we know the catechism very well. … Our baptism took place in the evening, by candlelight. Long shadows played on the walls, and the echo carried each word high. Pan Stanisław, Rita’s first husband and Yola’s father [Rita, a divorcée, was the lover of Halina’s uncle Hipolit—Ed.], was my godfather. We didn’t go back to the Jewish side. Pan Stefan, Pani Renia’s husband, went there in the gasworks’ van and brought out suitcases with our things to an apartment which Pani Renia had found for us at 7 Miodowa Street. … Men in black leather coats stopped us on the street by our house and came with us into the apartment. I no longer know whether they ordered me to, or whether I knelt down myself and started to pray out loud. And I don’t know which was more effective—my prayer, or the money which they got from Mother. Immediately after that, Pani Renia found me a place 45 with the Sisters of the Resurrection, and Mother moved in with Rita who had married an Austrian and was living in a German quarter on Aleja Szucha. … The boarding school of the Sisters of Resurrection was at 15 Mokotowska Street. I always remembered the numbers and names, but nothing other than that interested me. A new name is a new name, I didn’t ask about anything. I knew that despite my baptism I was still a Jew, which was very bad. That was enough, I didn’t want to know any more. When it became too dangerous on Mokotowska Street, they moved us to Stara Wieś, to a white mansion with a turret and little towers belonging to a prince. … the mansion which stands to this day in Stara Wieś, Węgrów district, belonged to Prince Radziwiłł. German officers occupied part of the mansion. They had a separate entrance on the other side, but they used to come to our chapel. Sister Alma once said to my mother, “Ah, Halusia is so smart, when she sees a German, she immediately runs away.” We carried water from the well and peeled potatoes—two buckets of water and forty potatoes a day. In the summer, we picked mushrooms, strawberries and blueberries in the woods. The nuns made tasty dishes out of them. We prayed in the morning, evening, before and after eating. We confessed every week, and for one day a month we spoke to no one except the cross on the wall. I prayed very sincerely. On these words, which I often did not understand, depended my life not only on heaven, but also here on earth. We went to church for Sunday Mass and Communion, but Confession, Novenas and Vespers were held in the chapel at the mansion. The priest who heard our confessions had escaped from Germany and hidden with the Sisters of the Resurrection because—which we didn’t know—he had been born a Jew. Germans also confessed to him because he spoke good German and even had a German last name. How were they to know that a Jew was hearing their confessions?

We went to the village school, but the nuns gave us extra lessons in Latin and German. They also taught us embroidery and to make play things out of paper and straw. They arranged games and theatricals for us. They darned our stockings and repaired our clogs. They cared for us and treated our flu, hepatitis, and scarlet fever. They went into the countryside to ask for milk and potatoes and flour for us. We didn’t have enough to eat, but I never felt it. I only felt fear in my stomach. My face grew thin, my nose longer, and fear showed in my eyes, and I looked nothing like Shirley Temple any more.

I went to my mother to Warsaw for holidays. Yola [Jola was Rita’s daughter—Ed.] took me to the circus where the antics of the acrobats filled me with dread, and to the cinema where I sat even more anxiously because everything was in German and I only saw Germans around me. Once they sent me to fetch milk from Meinl’s, a shop for Germans and Volksdeutsche.

A moment later, the telephone: “Frau Haslauer, who is that Jewish child?” Walter immediately took me back to Stara Wieś and I never went there any more. My mother came to see me, but I was afraid of her visits. Krysia Janas’s grandmother came once and took her back for Easter. They were discovered in the train. The Sisters tried to save Krysia, but one of the Germans told them to desist because it could end up badly for the whole boarding school. I don’t remember her face. She was nine years old, the same as me.

We were not taught hatred—only love, above all for the Lord Jesus. But hatred was stronger. Especially when coupled with love. Because how could you love the tormented Jesus, and not hate those who betrayed Him? And how strong must the hatred have been if even little Krysia Janas was betrayed? That’s why I made a pact with the Christian God that I would never by a Jew and that, in exchange, no one would hate me. That was Easter 1944.

Other Jews who were taken in or helped in other ways by the Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ included were Elżbieta Sobelman, Eva Grosfeld, and Eva and Jan Schutz. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volumes 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, pp.349, 459–60; Part 2, p.753.) [1] Elzbieta [Elżbieta] Sobelman was 11 years old when both her parents died in late 1942. Before his death, her father had asked Krystyna Klarzuk, a former acquaintance of his, to take care of his daughter. Klarzuk, a young married woman with a baby who lived in central Warsaw, welcomed the young orphan and looked after her devotedly without expecting anything in return. Although the neighbors soon became suspicious, Klarzuk refused to be intimidated by their threats and blackmail. After obtaining Aryan papers for Elzbieta, she enrolled her at an institution run by the Resurrectionist (Zmartwychwstanki) nuns, where she continued to look after her and watch out for her safety. Elzbieta was transferred to a transit camp for Poles who were evacuated from the Zamosc [Zamość] region and sent to the orphanage belonging to the RGO [Rada Główna Opiekuńcza, a social welfare agency]. Elzbieta remained in the orphanage until the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising in the summer of 1944, when she was deported to Pruszkow [Pruszków] with the rest of Warsaw’s population. After wandering from one hiding place to another, she finally reached the village of Chorowice in the county of Skawina, Cracow district. Although Elzbieta lost contact with Klarzuk, the ties between them were renewed immediately after the liberation in January 1945 and continued for many more years.

46 [2] Aldona Lipszyc, a widow who had been married to a Jew and lived with her seven children in Warsaw, owned a farm and house in Ostrowek [Ostrówek], in the county of Radzymin. Before the war, Lipszyc had been active in the PPS [Polish Socialist Party] and was known for her progressive views. During the war, Lipszyc, guided by humanitarian principles, which overrode considerations of personal safety or economic hardship, helped her Jewish friends by offering them shelter in her home. The first to stay in her apartment in Warsaw was Helena Fiszhaut, an old school friend who had escaped from the ghetto during the large-scale Aktion in August 1942. Thanks to her ties with the Polish underground, Lipszyc was able to provide Fiszhaut with Aryan papers and find her a job with a Polish family as a maid. In the fall of 1942, a woman introducing herself as Olga Grosfeld knocked on Lipszyc’s door, telling her that she had come from Przemysl [Przemyśl] with her 13-year-old daughter, Eva, following the advice of a mutual acquaintance. Lipszyc gave Grosfeld a warm welcome, and looked after her until she was driven out of the city with the rest of Warsaw’s population following the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944. Lipszyc also arranged for little Eva to be admitted to an institution for war orphans run by the Zmartwychwstanki [Resurrection] Sisters, where she stayed under an assumed identity until the liberation. [Aldona Lipszyc also sheltered a number of other Jews.] [3] During the war, Irena Stelmachowska lived in Warsaw with her two daughters, Wanda and Aleksandra. In winter 1942, Irena offered Eva Schutz and her 11-year-old son, Jan, shelter in her apartment. Eva and Jan, who had false papers in the names of Ewa and Jan Sarnecki, had escaped from the Lwow [Lwów] ghetto and reached the Nunnery of Resurrection in Zoliborz [Żoliborz] with the help of an acquaintance. At the nunnery, the mother and son were handed Irena’s address [the contact was established by Sister Laurenta17]. Eva and Jan stayed with the Stelmachowskas [sic] until the end of the Warsaw Uprising in October 1944, when they were deported to Pruszkow [Pruszków] and separated. After the war, Eva and Jan left Poland.

Hania Ajzner was a young girl when the war broke out. She lived with her family in the Warsaw ghetto until a Catholic friend of her father’s provided them with birth and baptismal certificates. After escaping from the ghetto, Hania was placed in a boarding school in the suburb of Żoliborz, run by the Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, under her new identity of Anna Zakościelna. Her true identity was known to the nuns and the chaplain, but she was never asked about her baptism. She recalls an episode that occurred when a revolt broke out in the Warsaw ghetto. (Hania Ajzner, Hania’s War [Caulfield South, Victoria, Australia: Makor Jewish Community Library, 2000], p.143.) One night, Sister Wawrzyna came into the dormitory after the girls had already settled down. “Get up, girls, come up to the windows,” and she drew aside the black-out curtains. They could al see a red glow over the fields to the South. “That is the Ghetto, burning,” she said. “There was an uprising in the Ghetto. You must all pray, girls, for there are heroes fighting and dying there.” Ania stood there in silence. … It was a long time before they went back to their beds. It was the 19th April, 1943.

After an illness which required hospitalization in December 1943, through the efforts of a priest, Father Rodak, who helped place Jewish children in convents, Hania was taken to a hostel for teenagers in the Old Town, run by the Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth, where she met another Jewish girl, Joasia Ravicz. After the failed Warsaw uprising of August 1944, the two Jewish girls, escorted by Sister Jadwiga, made their way to Częstochowa. They went to the Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra where the monks fed them and put them up temporarily in a hospice.

The girls were accepted at a boarding school, also run by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, where there were about a dozen Jewish girls from Warsaw. After the war Hania was reunited with her mother. Her memoir mentions other Jewish children hidden in convents: her cousin Halina Ajzner (Wengielek), in a convent in Maciejowice near Warsaw run by the Sisters of the Family of Mary; Halina Kszypoff; and the sisters Judy and Tosia, in a boarding school in Żoliborz run by the Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Often parents were not informed of the whereabouts of their children sheltered in convents in order to protect the security of everyone participating in these perilous undertakings. Bernard Goldstein, a Bundist leader from Warsaw, describes the following cases. (Bernard Goldstein, The Stars Bear Witness [London: Victor Gollancz, 17 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, pp.513–14.

–  –  –

In the same tenement lived Comrade Chaimovitch, formerly an official of our cooperative movement. Now he was liaison man between the Judenrat and the Tranferstelle, which supplied the ghetto food allotment. He had the right to visit the Aryan side, wearing a uniform cap with a blue ribbon and a Star of David.

I went up to visit Chaimovitch and found him and his wife greatly agitated. He had just returned from smuggling their ten-year-old daughter out pf the ghetto. A Christian friend had arranged for her admission to a children’s home run by a convent somewhere in Poland—where, he was not permitted to know for fear that he might disclose the dangerous secret.

‘The child did not want to go to the Christians,” Chaimovitch told us, weeping. “She cried and pleaded to be allowed to stay with us. If our fate is to die, she wanted to die with us. It was only with great difficulty and against her will that we were able to get her across.” He wrung his hands. “Where is my child? Will I ever see her again?” … My guide took me to a small three-room apartment on the first floor. Mr. and Mrs. Chumatovsky, with whom I was to stay, worked in the [armament] factory. … In a tiny room in the apartment I found Zille, [Zalman] Friedrych’s wife, and their five-year-old daughter, Elsa.

Friedrych himself lived elsewhere….

Five-year-old Elsa was a pretty, active blond child who blue eyes radiated life and spirit. She could not understand why we had to remain constantly cooped up in our small room, not even going for a walk in the courtyard. In other ways, however, she was sometimes frightened by here awareness of the dangerous situation.

Sometimes I would forgetfully lapse into Yiddish. The child would become almost hysterical. “Stop speaking that language. Don’t you realize it means our lives?” she would hiss sharply in Polish.

Elsa would sit at the window, watching other children at play in the yard. Often she would cry. Fearful of attracting attention, her mother would try to quiet the girl. Sometimes the only way was to stuff a handkerchief into the little mouth.

The child’s crying made our landlady very nervous. The neighbors knew that she had no children. She was afraid that we would be discovered. She had heard terrible tales of how the Germans stamped out the lives of little Jewish children with their boots, and then shot the mothers and their Gentile hosts as well. … The nervous anxiety soon began to tell on our hosts. Our landlady was often in tears. Her hysteria multiplied our own fears. Together with our hosts we began to cast about for a way in which little Elsa might be removed to safety. Our landlord had a sister who was Mother Superior in a convent near Cracow. We decided to send the child to her.

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