«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Around 1942, the Germans started to control us more strictly, and we couldn’t use social aid funds any more. Happily, in the autumn of that same year, Zegota [Żegota] was formed … Żegota had access to funds supplied by the Polish government in exile in London.” Irena Sendler’s story has been dramatized recently in a play, Life in a Jar, and a film, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, which is based on Anna Mieszkowska’s biography Matka dzieci Holocaustu: Historia Ireny Sendlerowej [Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Irena Sendler] (Warsaw: Muza, 2004).
Jadwiga Piotrowska, who cooperated with the afrementioned Jan Dobraczyński, devoted her life to the welfare of her Jewish charges and helped to place many Jewish children to convents. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, at pages 611–12.) Jadwiga Piotrowska was a member of a devout Catholic family. During the occupation, Piotrowska lived with her parents in Warsaw and worked in the social services department at City Hall. Piotrowska, who faithfully assisted Jan Dobraczynski [Dobraczyński], who was responsible for street children in the same department, happened to find herself in the Warsaw ghetto in her professional capacity, where she witnessed the hardships of the Jewish children firsthand. In the framework of her work, Piotrowska made contact in the ghetto with people who cared for children, including Janusz Korczak, whom she considered, as she put it, “a saint, although he was not a Christian.” In time, Piotrowska joined Zegota [Żegota] and helped smuggle children out of the ghetto and save them on the Aryan side of the city. Piotrowska was one [of] Zegota’s most active members and personally cared for many Jews who came over to the Aryan side without any address or money. She provided them with places to hide and financial support. Her home served as a transit station for Jews, both adults and children, and they found respite there from the terrible anxiety and fear they endured. She helped prepare them for their life on the Aryan side of the city. She personally took a number of Jewish children to hide with Polish families and in convents. Among those she saved were Pola and Mieczyslaw [Mieczysław] Monar, their two children, their niece, Halina Zlotnicka [Złotnicka], Josek Buschbaum, a youth who stayed in her home from 1943 to 1946 (who she considered adopting), the Rapaczynski [Rapaczyński] family, the girls Maria and Joanna Majerczyk, and others.
Piotrowska considered the help she extended to Jews her moral duty and the saving of their lives both a patriotic and a religious calling.
Another participant in this rescue network was Magdalena Grodzka-Guzkowska (née Rusinek), a teenager when she joined the Polish underground, who collected children from the Warsaw ghetto, cared for them, and took them
to their places of refuge with Polish families or in convents. (“Ceremony Honoring Magdalena GrodzkaGuzkowska from Poland as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem,” Internet:
http:www1.yadvashem.org.il/about_yad/what_new/data_whats_new/grodzka.html.) Magdalena Grodzka-Guzkowska (née Rusinek) was 15 years old when she joined the Polish Underground against the Germans. In 1943, she met Jadwiga Piotrowska, later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, and joined her in rescuing Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Magdalena collected the children, cared for them and escorted them to their places of refuge with Polish families or in convents. She displayed enormous dedication and love, although she was placing her own life at serious risk. Before bringing the children to their hiding places, she taught them Christian customs in an effort to disguise their Jewish identity.
One such rescue activity saw Magdalena save the life of a six-year-old Jewish boy called Adas [Adaś], who had been severely injured by local thugs. Magdalena took the boy for medical care at the hospital, and then moved him to a hiding place in a monastery. She also saved the life of five-year-old Wlodzio [Włodzio or Włodzimierz] Berg. In spring 1943 his
Five Jewish boys were sheltered in the orphanage for boys run by the Daughters of the Purest Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Otwock near Warsaw. According to one Jew, who expressed his thanks to the director “for her Christian and humanitarian care of the children,” the institution was “poverty stricken” and had to rely on outside donations to make ends meet. Some additional Jewish children were assisted in the children’s home after the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto.23 Another vital member of this network who worked closely with Catholic Church and lay institutions to rescue Jews was the journalist Irena Schultz. During the occupation she worked in the social affairs department of the Warsaw municipality together with Jan Dobraczyński, Irena Sendler and Jadwiga Piotrowska. (“Schultz, Irena,” Internet: http://www.savingjews.org/righteous/sv.htm.) Irena Schultz worked already before the war in the Social Welfare Department of Warsaw. This Department also cared for poor Jews, providing ca. 3,000 of them with inexpensive meals, medicine, clothing and money. After the closing of the ghetto, 90% of Jews found themselves walled in it. Irena Sendler procured for herself and for Irena Schultz a work permit of the sanitary task group for fighting infectious diseases. This enabled them to enter the ghetto freely, beginning in January 1943. They made contact with the organization CENTOS, a relief organization for Jewish children, and with Ewa Rechtman. They also renewed old contacts with their charges and made new ones. The two, Irena Schultz especially, entered the ghetto sometimes two and three times daily, bringing with them food, clothing, medicine and money. They delivered ca. 1,000 vaccines against typhoid fever. Other workers of the sanitary task group secretly brought a further
6.000 vaccines. Irena specialized in getting Jewish children out of the ghetto, either by the underground corridors of the court building on Leszno Street, or through the tram depot in Muranów. In the court building, the janitors received a small reward, “because of the risk.” Those children were placed with Polish families who received, if needed, a certain amount of money for their expenses from Żegota; others were placed in the Boduen orphanage, directed by Dr. Maria Propokowicz-Wierzbowska and operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. To make it impossible to place in it Jewish children, Germans made a rule that the children could be placed there only with police approval and escort.
Once, when a young Jewish mother wishing to go for work in Germany appeared with a newborn baby, the baby was presented at the police post as the child of the janitor, whose wife often left him to go to the country. And so the baby, called Feliks, was accepted in the orphanage. On another occasion, Irena Schultz extricated from a manhole a small Jewish girl who had a note pinned to her garment giving her age only. The girl was in such lamentable state that nobody would take her in and it was necessary to put her in the Boduen orphanage. The little girl had fair hair and blue eyes, so nobody suspected that she was Jewish. At the police station Irena was suspected of being an unnatural mother who brought her daughter to such a terrible state and tried in this way to get rid of her. Fortunately in that orphanage there were some people to whom the truth could be told. The orphanage advised the police that it found the mother of the girl on their own and so Irena was free of the suspicion of abusing her child. In spite of those difficulties, the Boduen orphanage accepted ca. 200 Jewish children, part of the several hundreds already there. A Blue policeman warned one of its doctors, Dr. Helena Słomczyńska, “You are accepting too many children, it is not good.” Irena saved many people especially from the medical world. In 1942 she went to Lwów and obtained from priest [Władysław] Pokiziak [of St. Nicholas parish] many birth certificate forms, supposedly from a church that had burnt down.24 They served later as the basis to get “Kennkarten” (German identity cards). Irena Sendler said that “what was impossible for others, Irena Schultz always achieved with success.” 23 The children were not required to undergo baptism despite the claim levelled by one of them, Włodzimierz Berg, now William Donat, born in 1938, who declared his desire to be baptized only after the Germans had left that area and was thus no longer in imminent danger.
See Żeńskie zgromadzenia zakonne w Polsce 1939–1947, vol. 6 (Lublin: Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, 1991), pp.226–27; Sylwia Szymańska, Ludność żydowska w Otwocku podczas Drugiej wojny światowej (Warsaw: Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, 2002), p.85;
Alexander Donat, The Holocaust Kingdom: A Memoir (London: Secker & Warburg, 1965), pp.341–54; Emily Taitz, ed., Holocaust Survivors: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, Connecticut, and London: Greenwood Press, 2007), vol. 1, pp.96–97.
24 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.478.
63 See also Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2,
at page 700, which provides the following additional information:
Early in the occupation, Schultz, together with Irena Sendler, began helping Jews in the ghetto by providing them with medicine, money, and clothing and was one of the first members of Zegota [Żegota]. Schultz’s job involved frequent visits to the ghetto, occasions she exploited to cooperate with CENTOS, a relief organization for Jewish children. On the eve of the ghetto’s liquidation, Schultz, as a member of Zegota, help smuggle children out of the ghetto to the Aryan side of the city. Schultz became an expert in the field, so much so that her co-workers later testified that no one could smuggle children out of the ghetto as successfully as she. Schultz also let her home be used as a transit point and temporary shelter for Jewish fugitives until they found permanent shelter. At her own initiative, Schultz provided a number of Jewish intellectuals and doctors with forged documents and found them hiding places. Among those who owed her their lives were Helena Witwicka and her daughter, Mira Pazynska [Pażyńska], and Aleksander Dubienski [Dubieński] and his sister, Gizela Gebert.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary rescued more than 500 Jewish children and at least 150 adult Jews, and provided temporary assistance to many other Jews, in their homes and orphanages throughout Poland: Anin, Białołęka, Brwinów, Brzezinki, Izabelin, Kołomyja, Kostowiec, Krasnystaw, Łomna, Lwów, Międzylesie, Mirzec, Mszana Dolna, Nieborów, Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, Ostrówek, Płudy, Pustelnik, Podhajce, Sambor, Soplicowo, Turka, Warsaw, and Wola Gołkowska. Among the sisters who stand out for their role in this vast rescue mission are: Mother Matylda Getter, the provincial superior in Warsaw, the only Sister decorated by Yad Vashem; Mother Ludwika Lis (Lisówna), the superior general, and Mother Janina Wirball, the vicar general in Lwów; Sister Apolonia Sawicka, the superior in Anin; Sister Bernarda Lemańska in Izabelin; Sister Tekla (Anna) Budnowska in Łomna; Sister Aniela Stawowiak in Płudy; Sister Helena Dobiecka in Pustelnik; Sister Celina Kędzierska in Sambor; and Sisters Olga Schwarc and Teresa Stępówna in Warsaw. Various nuns such as Sisters Janina Kruszewska, Apolonia Lorenc and Stefania Miaśkiewicz were charged with transporting Jewish children from one
institution to another. Baptismal certificates for the Jewish charges were obtained from various Warsaw parishes:
St. Barbara, St. Florian, Holy Cross, St. Adalbert, St. James and All Saints, as well as from parishes outside Warsaw, such as St. Anthony and St Mary Magdalene in Lwów. Monsignor Marceli Godlewski and Rev.
Zygmunt Kaczyński were particularly helpful in this endeavour. Monsignor Godlewski brought about twenty Jewish boys out of the Warsaw ghetto and placed them in the orphanage in Anin. (Teresa Antonietta Frącek, “Ratowały, choć za to groziła śmierć,” 6 Parts, Nasz Dziennik, March 8–9, March 12, March 15–16, March 19, March 26, April 4, 2008.) The following accounts are found in Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volumes 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, at page 234; Part 2, at pages 663–64, 702, 728, and 935– 36.
 Matylda Getter (Mother Matylda) was head of the Franciscan order “Mary’s Family” … in the Warsaw district. In her capacity as Mother Superior, Matylda ran a number of children’s homes and orphanages in the locality, where she hid many Jewish children during the occupation. In 1942–1943, Mother Matylda contacted the workers of Centos, an organization which arranged care for orphans and abandoned Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto. Many of these children, after being smuggled out of the ghetto, were sent directly to Matylda’s institutions. Although we do not know exactly how many Jewish children were saved by the institutions of “Mary’s Family,” we do know that about 40 Jewish girls—including Wanda Rozenbaum, Margareta Frydman [later Marguerite Acher], and Chana Zajtman—found refuge in the Pludy [Płudy] branch alone. All 40 survived. [Chana Zajtman first stayed for two months in a rest home run by the nuns, where all the residents were Jewish, before being moved to Płudy.] Mother Matylda was fond of saying that it was her duty to save those in trouble. Spurred by her religious faith, she never demanded payment for her services, although some parents, and a few relatives, paid for their children’s upkeep. Despite the fact that most of the Jewish children were baptized while in the institutions, they all returned to Judaism after the liberation.
 Professor Stanislaw [Stanisław] Popowski, a physician, was a well-known expert in children’s diseases. During the occupation, he was the head of the children’s municipal hospital in Warsaw and active in an underground organization of democratic and socialist doctors who helped save Jews who fled from the ghetto to the Aryan side of the city. In saving Jewish children, Popowski collaborated with Matylda Getter, the mother superior of a Franciscan convent in the area. … Bianka Perlmutter, the daughter of a family of physicians [Arnold and Stefania Perlmutter] who had been friendly with the