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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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[7] Shmuel Kenigswein, a well-known boxer, met Zygmunt Pietak [Piętak] when both were involved in the smuggling of food into the Warsaw ghetto. In the summer of 1942, during the large-scale deportation of the Jews of Warsaw to Treblinka, Kenigswein asked Pietak to help him escape together with his family and find a place to hide on the Aryan side of the city. Pietak immediately agreed to help his friend despite the great danger involved, and demonstrating considerable resourcefulness smuggled Shmuel and Regina Kenigswein and their three young children out of the ghetto. Pietak placed the youngest child, still a baby, in the foundling home run by Father Boduen and hid the other four members of the family in a hiding place in an apartment which he had prepared for them ahead of time and where they hid until late 1943.

Throughout that entire period, Pietak was the Jewish family’s only contact with the outside world, visiting them frequently and bringing them provisions and other necessities. When the hiding place became too dangerous and it was feared that

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[8] Before the war, Apolonia Przybojewska lived in Warsaw in the same apartment house as the Guz and Szarfsztejn families and they became good friends. After the occupation of the city and the establishment of the Warsaw ghetto, the two Jewish families moved to Minsk [Mińsk] Mazowiecki. Przybojewska kept in touch with them and helped them transfer funds and keep in touch with their relatives imprisoned in other ghettos. One evening in November 1942, Sura Guz suddenly appeared on Przybojewska’s doorstep holding the baby girl she had given birth to just days before outside the forced labor camp in which she had been imprisoned together with her husband. Guz asked Przybojewska to find a way to save the baby, and the very next day Przybojewska staged the discovery of an abandoned baby on her doorstep for her neighbors. This enabled her to hand the baby over to the orphanage run by Father Boduen in Warsaw. After she brought the baby to the orphanage, she continued to visit her frequently and maintained contact between her and her mother, who was hiding on the Aryan side of the city. In late 1942, Przybojewska’s other Jewish friends, who were imprisoned in a forced labor camp near Minsk Mazowiecki, asked her to help the live on the Aryan side of Warsaw. … Przybojewska arranged Ayran papers for them and rented a suitable apartment for them. … The seven Jewish fugitives and the Guz family’s infant daughter were saved thanks to Przybojewska’s devoted help and courageous resourcefulness, whose efforts to save them were motivated by her humanitarian principles, for which she never asked for or received anything in return.

[9] Genowefa and Jozef [Józef] Tomczyk lived in Wlochy [Włochy], near Warsaw, during the war. In the summer of 1942, they accepted Anna Jasinska [Jasińska] as a domestic worker after she was sent to them by an employment agency. Anna had managed to leave the Warsaw ghetto with her 15-month-old baby girl. When she was on the Aryan side of the city it occurred to her that she would not be able to find work if she was burdened with a child. She managed to place the child in an orphanage on Nowogrodzka Street [the Father Boduen Home?] and then began to look for work. She found the Tomczyks through the employment agency and soon afterwards began working for them. Almost immediately, the Tomczyks’ neighbors accused them of hiding a Jew. Genowefa asked Anna about her origins and Anna answered that she was a Jew. She also offered to leave if the Tomczyks preferred her to do so. After consulting with her husband, Genowefa decided to let Anna stay. The neighbors were told that Anna was a prewar friend of the family. Jozef arranged a Kennkarte for Anna and the neighbors seemed satisfied with the Tomczyk’s story. “The Tomczyks lived in difficult circumstances … despite that, I received from them food, medicine, and even money for travel, since every Sunday I visited my daughter, who had been taken to a monastery [run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul] in Klarysew, near Warsaw. … The food and medicine I brought saved my daughter’s life and helped many sick children in the monastery,” wrote Anna in her testimony to Yad Vashem. After the war, Anna brought her daughter to the Tomczyks and they stayed there until both families were able to organize their new lives.

Ilonka Fajnberg (later Róża Maria Górska), born in 1939, was one of several Jewish children sheltered by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in the Warsaw suburb of Kamionek, where she went under the name of Marysia Kołakowska. The superior of the convent, Sister Maria Pietkiewicz, has been recognized by Yad Vashem. (Account of Ilonka Fajnberg, “I Found My Roots,” in Gutenbaum and Latała, The Last Eyewitnesses, volume 2, p.40.) In the spring of 1943 I found myself in the Sisters of Charity convent in Kamionek. From that time on, my guardian was the mother superior in this convent, Sister Maria Pietkiewicz, a woman of great heart, which she, however, tried not to show. She was stiff and unapproachable and aroused fear and respect, not only among the girls in her care.

At the convent I was the only fully orphaned child, left without even an extended family. It was very sad for me when families took the other children on Sundays and holidays, and I had to remain alone. When I grew up a bit, I complained about this to Mother Superior, and she became angry, “What do you mean you have no family; we’re your family!” And that’s how it was left.

The situation for children, especially Jewish ones, was particularly tragic after the failed Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. Hena Kuczer, who assumed the name Krystyna Budnicka, recalls her experience as an 11-year-old girl who was taken in by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. After being rescued by some Poles from the

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My name is Krystyna Budnicka, my true family name is Kuczer, Hena Kuczer. I first used my Polish name when Mr.

Budnicki, a Pole, who had been looking after me, handed me over to some nuns who ran an orphanage as we were leaving a burning Warsaw after the Uprising in October 1944. When the nuns asked my name I didn’t hesitate for long. Krystyna Budnicka, I said. And it stuck. … I couldn’t show my face in public because I looked very Semitic. The next day a female liaison came in the morning, put a bandage around my head and took me by tram to Dobra Street. And that’s how I found myself at the Budnickis’. Anka [her sister-in-law] was already there.

The Budnickis helped Jews; they were a middle-aged childless couple. I know that when the summer holidays started, Mrs. Budnicka went to a summer vacation spot with some Jewish children, somewhere in the Otwock area. When the Uprising broke out, she wasn’t in Dobra Street. Anka cooked there. I recall that the Poles captured a heating plant somewhere nearby and there was great joy, euphoria. During the Uprising we would go down with everybody else to the cellar, the shelter. At that time I didn’t hear a bad word directed at us. You could say that people felt a stronger solidarity with one another, all felt the same danger. We walked out of Warsaw on 6th September with the Budnickis. We crossed Warsaw, which was ablaze. I parted with Anka in Wola [a district of Warsaw]. First, there was a night stopover under the open sky, and in the morning selection for work duties.

Mr. Budnicki noticed some nuns, Grey Nuns [a mistranslation of “szarytki”— actually, Sisters of Charity, from the French “charité”] from Warsaw, from Ordynacka Street. He went up to the Mother Superior and told her that he had an orphan, that he wasn’t her father. She said, ‘You will come to get her after the war?’ ‘Yes, yes, of course.’ said Budnicki.

When the nun saw me, she asked, ‘My child, what's your name?’ I said, ‘Krysia Budnicka’. I went with the children from the orphanage to the Pruszkow [Pruszków] transit camp. Later it turned out that out of eighteen children, six were Jewish.

… At Pruszkow we spent only one night. I remember I was given an empty food can, with which I went to get soup. From Pruszkow the whole children’s home was moved to Bobrowce near Mszczonow [Mszczonów]. The trek took several days.

We were billeted in a school. A few of the girls were Jewish, but of course I knew nothing of that. We were all very poor, we had left Warsaw after the Uprising with nothing. The nuns scoured the villages and brought us bits of food and old clothes. I got a moth-eaten coat, I remember that was a luxury; the other children envied me. My looks were a big problem and the nuns protected me. When the other children went into the village to dig potatoes, the nuns kept me back. They told the other children that I had a wounded finger. I don’t think I was very popular. Nobody taunted me for being Jewish, but the other children used to call me a creep because I was very obliging—probably because after the hell I’d been through I wanted to show my gratitude for being taken care of. We were in Bobrowce when the liberation came [the Russians entered Warsaw on January 17, 1945], and in February we were moved to Osuchow [Osuchów], to the abandoned palace of the Plater family. There I started going to school. I was 13. In May 1945 we were taken to a village called Szczaki Zlotoklos [Złotokłos], where we continued to go to school.

The nuns wanted to baptize me right away, in October 1944, but a priest said that he couldn’t approve, that baptism could take place only in the event of a life-threatening emergency. ‘We shall wait, the war will end soon, she is a big girl and she must decide for herself,’ he said. I was baptized in Szczaki Zlotoklos. That was something I really wanted. I was very keen to fulfill all my religious duties conscientiously. Some men came to Szczaki Zlotoklos looking for Jewish children.

The nuns brought them to me and I told them everything I remembered about my family. They said they would start looking, and that perhaps someone might have survived. I don’t know what organization they can have been from. Six of us girls were Jewish. One was found by her father. I remember the tears. Another one was taken to Israel. She was very small, seven years old. First she was taken to the Jewish children’s home, then to Cracow, and today she lives in Israel.

They tried to persuade me to go as well, but I didn’t want to, and I was old enough that they could hardly have forced me.

The same people came to the children’s home several times, and they carried on coming when we were back in Warsaw, too. [Editor’s note: The children’s home returned to Warsaw in 1946, and was located on Czerniakowska Street.] Once a man came to visit me claiming to be my cousin and telling me he was going to take me to Palestine. But I knew he was no relative of mine. I was very hurt that he tried to deceive me.

I stayed with the Grey Nuns for a very long time, up to my grammar school graduation, that is, until 1952.

After the failed insurrection in Warsaw (August to October 1944), Catholic institutions including convents and orphanages were forced to evacuate Warsaw and the surrounding areas. At great risk, nuns spirited their young

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I was born July 7th, 1940, in Wierzbnik, Poland. My parent, Zion and Sala Baranek.

In 1942 just before Hitler liquidated all Jews from Wierzbnik, my parents gave me away to a Polish couple in Warsaw and I took the identity of Zosha Murofska [Zosia Murawska]. I was two years of age and spoke perfect Polish.

Two days after my parents gave me away, they were taken to a labour camp in Wierzbnik, called Tartak. From Tartak, my parents communicated with the Pole who kept their child. He was to keep them informed about her health and they in turn would pay him at regular intervals—as agreed upon. … When the Pole came, this person paid him and at that time asked him to take the son of Morty Maslowicz—a little boy who was hidden in the Tartak Camp with him. The Pole agreed and took the little boy to his home. This, I believe, was a very important step in my life—an actual turning point. The only recollection of this part of my childhood, was a little boy walking back and forth, back and forth, and me sitting crossedlegged like an India, for days on end. The Pole was arrested by the Germans and his wife, being in fear for her life, especially since she was hiding a Jewish boy, had no alternative and found us and took us to our new home—beside Warsaw. The Nuns were very good to us and tried to keep us alive with what little they had. I can remember the hours we spent on my knees in prayer, the Virgin Mary was taught to be our one and only Mother. I do not know the date, but I remember when again, I had to leave my home. The Germans made the Nuns evacuate their Home and we all had to get out within hours. Those who were healthy, had to walk the long journey to Zakopany [Zakopane]. Babies and the sick rode in buggies. It was winter and those who had no shoes had to walk barefoot in the snow. When we arrived in Zakopany it was Christmas and I will always remember the warmth and light of that very beautiful Christmas tree. My new home consisted of tables for beds, bread and milky soup once a day, and devoted prayers.

When the war ended, we were taken away from Zakopany, by a Jewish lady. There were five of us—three girls and two boys It was a rainy night and I can remember being carried out to the horse and buggy that would take us to a new home.

From the horse and buggy we went into trucks that had been waiting for us … I recall being very sick for quite a long time, and at this point, we arrived at our new home—a Jewish orphanage in Bellevue, in the outskirts of Paris, France.

My father died in Mauthausen. My mother survived and in 1944 she began her long journey in search of her child.

Assistance came from the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who ran a retirement home in Kraków, which was evacuated to Szczawnica, in southern Poland, and from their chaplain, Rev. Albin Małysiak, now auxiliary bishop of Kraków. Both Rev. Małysiak and Sister Bronisława Wilemska, the superior, were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Gentiles. Rev. Małysiak recalled those events in an article he published in 1987 (“Zakład Helclów a ratowanie Żydów,” Tygodnik Powszechny, Kraków, March 15, 1987).

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