«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
… one of the former residents of the parish buildings at All Saints, Dr. Louis Christophe Zaleski-Zamenhof, … is the grandson of Dr. Ludwik Lazar Zamenhof (1859–1917), the creator of Esperanto; the main street of what used to be the northern ghetto bears his name. … When he was fifteen, Zaleski-Zamenhof lived in the ghetto with his mother, who had just been released from Pawiak prison. His mother was a widow; her husband had been executed in Palmiry (a forest near Warsaw, the site of numerous executions carried out by the Gestapo), at the beginning of the occupation. His sister, a medical doctor and also a recent widow, lived with them. They were invited to live in the All Saints parish hall by the pastor, Rev. Godlewski. Later, the pastor helped the young Zamenhof to escape from the ghetto and to find a humble factory job in suburban Anin. … Dr. Zaleski-Zamenhof speaks in glowing terms of Rev. Godlewski. He does not consider him as an anti-Semite: “He did not ask me what was my religion, but whether I was hungry.” On the contrary, he maintains that even from a purely theological point of view, the ideas propagated by Rev. Godlewski in the Warsaw ghetto were forerunners of the new ecumenical view, later accepted by Vatican II, that Jews were not the “rejectors of Christ” but “the older brothers of the Christians.” … The All Saints Church was situated in the southern part of the ghetto, sometimes referred to as the small ghetto.
Rev. Czarnecki remembers that many people who were moved into the ghetto found homes by exchanging apartments in the vicinity of All Saints, “so that … a considerable part of the population there was constituted by Catholics or Christians of other denomination, or of sympathizers with the Church. The great majority of the new parishioners belonged to the intelligentsia: they were scientists, doctors, artists and lawyers.” Given this membership, the parish council naturally included members of the intelligentsia and “outstanding personalities such as Dr. Antonowicz, Dr. Górecki, Dr. Grausam, the lawyer Ettinger, the engineer Hermelin, Mrs. Bronisława Pfau and others.” … Dr. Ludwik Hirszfeld is the most knowledgeable informant about the Christians in the ghetto and about many aspects of the daily life of the ghetto dwellers. His autobiography, The Story of a Life (2000) is the most important document by a Christian about the Christians of the Warsaw ghetto and about the Church of All Saints. … Hirszfeld’s activities during his next year and a half in the ghetto were of two kinds: he offred [Judenrat chairman] Czerniaków his services as an expert on combating typhus, and he participated in organizing and offering important courses for medical practitioners (doctors, pharmacists, and dentists) and also collaborated in a semiclandestine course for medical students …in fact it was a program of the first two years in medical school. … His motivation was frankly spiritual and, as we have seen, often expressed in a clearly religious language. … His first lecture for medical practitioners met with some resistance because of his mekhes [convert] status: “The Chairman [Czerniaków] is present, evidently to prevent any demonstrations against me by the Jewish nationalists. At the door a woman doctor, a nationalist, urges the boycott of my lecture. … My first words are a call to maintain dignity.” … In the chapter entitled “In the Shadow of the All Saints Church,” Hirszfeld describes Jewish Christian life in the ghetto.
In August 1941 the Hirszfeld obtained living quarters at All Saints in the large church building containing the rectory and a church hall. After almost seven months of living on Twarda Street, in the midst of noise and filth and with constant exposure to the terrible street scenes, they found themselves in an oasis of relative peace. Hirszfeld describes this new place in terms similar to those Alina Brodzka Wald used about the Church of the Nativity of the B.V.M.: “The windows of our very small dwelling were facing a small but beautiful garden. These gardens surrounded by walls have a strange charm. We had an impression of finding ourselves in a recess of meditation, silence and goodwill, a recess preserved in the midst of hell. And the priest of this recess was Monsignor Godlewski.” Hirszfeld praises Rev. Godlewski in the highest terms. We have already seen the same homage offered by another 102 survivor of the rectory of All Saints, Dr. Zaleski-Zamenhof. Hirszfeld, who insisted that he was not endowed with literary talent, always speaks lyrically about the monsignor. … “Monsignor Godlewski. When I pronounce this name, I am seized with emotion. Passion and love dwelling in one soul. Once upon a time he was an anti-Semite … But when fate made him encounter bottomless misery, he abandoned his previous attitudes and turned all the ardor of his priestly heart toward helping the Jews.” … Hirszfeld says that his admiration for the pastor of the All Saints parish was shared by many: “Whenever his beautiful white-haired head … appeared, the other heads bowed in admiration and love. We all loved him: children or old people fought for a moment of conversation. He did not spare himself. He taught catechism to the children. He was the head of Caritas for the whole ghetto, and ordered that soup be given whether the hungry person was a Christian or a Jew.” Hirszfeld insists that this love and respect was shared by people outside the Jewish Christian group as well: “We [Christian Jews] were not alone in the appreciation of Rev. Godlewski. I would like to transmit to future generations the opinion of the Head of the Jewish Council [Czerniaków]. During a meeting that Dr. [Juliusz] Zweibaum called to observe the first anniversary of the medical courses, the Head of the Council told us how this Monsignor wept in his office when he spoke about the misery of the Jews, and how he tried to alleviate this misery. Czerniaków stressed the great assistance rendered by this former anti-Semite.” Rev. Godlewski lived in Anin, a nearby suburb of Warsaw, and commuted to the ghetto every day using a permanent pass. His relative freedom of movement was extremely important for making contacts, for smuggling small quantities of food and medicine, and, according to a well-established tradition, for smuggling out little children hidden in the fold of his large cassock. His assistant and second in command at All Saints was, as we know, a much younger Rev. Czarnecki, who lived permanently in the rectory and who apparently was not touched by prewar anti-Semitism. Hirszfeld speaks about him also in high terms: “The helper and deputy of the Monsignor was Rev. Antoni Czarnecki. He was a young priest, who did not have the same passionate approach to life as the Monsigor, but he was certainly endowed with a gentleness and goodness worthy of a priest. He was liked and respected by all. His pleasant and loving ways [sposób bycia] had a soothing and comforting effect.” This chapter is the only one in which Hirszfeld speaks about the Christian Jews as a group: “On Sunday all the Christians, not only the Catholics, attended Mass. Everybody was there: doctors, lawyers, those whose baptism was an expression of faith, those for whom it was a [Polish] national symbol, and those who, at a certain moment, accepted their baptism to further their own self-interests. But all felt the need to gather at least once a week in the church and to participate in the service.” … Hirszfeld’s reflections contradict the views of those Jewish writers who saw in the ghetto baptisms nothing but a search for some kind of material profit. … What struck me in reading these pages for the first time—many years ago—was the insistence on patriotism, on an inalienable union of God and Country. I remember that during the war in Poland this was precisely the common, accepted, and indisputable view.
Accounts gathered by Yad Vashem, which has recognized Rev. Władysław Głowacki as a Righteous Gentile,
attest to the following. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 4:
Poland, Part 1, p.239.) From October 1940 to August 1942, Wladyslaw Glowacki [Władysław Głowacki] exploited his position as priest of the Leszno Street church [of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary] in the Warsaw ghetto to provide a number of Jews, including Amelia and Rudolf Arcichowski, Aleksander Bender, Tadeusz Seidenbeutel, and his father, Maksymilian, with Aryan papers. Glowacki also sheltered Helena Labedz in his apartment [in the parish rectory in the suburb of Służewiec where he was transferred in August 194240] from the summer of 1942 until January 1945, when the area was liberated.
One of the parishioners of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was Alina Brodzka Wald, who lived in the Warsaw ghetto from November 1940 until her escape to the Aryan side, at age twelve, on July 22, 1942. Her story is told in Dembowski, Christians in the Warsaw Ghetto, at pages 108–10.
She was baptized early in her life, following her mother’s wishes. Her godfather was Stanisław Wiesel (or Wizel), a convert of long standing. … Alina’s parents went to the ghetto in November 1940 because of their deep attachment to their own parents, who were old and had refused to go into hiding, although they could have done so because their Polish was fluent and faultless. Salomon and Gustawa Brodzki died peacefully in the ghetto, before the Aktion … One of Alina’s aunts,
40 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.155.
103 Eugenia Brodzka Jakubowicz, was baptized in the ghetto … As a little girl, Alina felt the antipathy of the ghetto population: “We were not loved, we were strangers.” The day that Alina’s family arrived in the [Warsaw] ghetto he father took her to the Church of the Nativity of the B.V.M.
For the next almost twenty months, she went to the parish every day to attend the school, taught by priests as well as lay teachers. She remembers the horror of those trips. Daily life in the ghetto was rendered particularly difficult because, among other tings, of the incredibly crowded conditions in the streets. One especially dreaded street was the narrow Karmelicka, the only passage, until the fall of 1941, from the southern part (small ghetto) to the northern part (larger ghetto). Alina had to take this passage to reach the church on Leszno Street from her home on Orla Street. … For Alina, entering the small door into the church garden, after the horrors of Leszno and Karmelicka Streets, was like entering another world, a world of green nature, one of tranquillity and a sense of security. She knew the head of the parish, Monsignor [Seweryn] Popławski, Rev. Teofil [Władysław] Głowacki, and Rev. [Aleksanser] Zyberk-Plater, whom she remembers as the “intellectuals of the parish.” Alina belonged to the parish children’s group, which had several dozen members. The leader of this group was Rev. Henryk Komorowski, the priest whom Alina remembers best. He played volleyball with “his” children, and Alina’s most cherished souvenir that she managed to bring from the ghetto is a photograph of the parish volleyball team dedicated to her by Rev. Komorowski as “his dear player.” He was truly a charismatic person, not only restected but loved. He enjoyed the total trust of his wards.
The school offered the usual subjects as well as a course of studies in the Christian tradition. Besides sports, the parish offered dancing and rhythmic gymnastics lessons given by Irena Prusicka. The parish had run an elementary school since the inception of the ghetto. At first it was a clandestine operation, but in October 1941 it became a legal Catholic school.
Regular religious education was offered both in the school and outside it.
We know that the gardens of both the Nativity and All Saints churches were greatly admired, desired, and envied as the only islands of green in the sea of overcrowded and noisy streets. The Nativity parish garden was more substantial than the garden of All Saints or the deactivated Saint Augustine. … the elite among the converts used to meet in the garden of the Nativity Church: doctors, professors, engineers, and teachers. … Alina left the ghetto on the first day of the Aktion, July 22, 1942, she simply walked through the checkpoint with slightly falsified papers, in which the Jewish name Brodzka was modified to the more “Aryan” spelling Brocka. But nobody asked her for papers. She explains it as a combination of luck, youth, and her “Slavic” looks. … Alina’s first protectors was Jadwiga Bielecka, the wife of a well-known “Endek” [National Democrat] who was at that time a prisoner of war in Germany. Alina spent the rest of the German occupation with the Sisters of the Family of Mary, and then with the Sisters of the Resurrection in Warsaw. After the Polish uprising, during which this fourteen-year-old girl worked in a hospital, Alina was sent with the Sisters to Częstochowa in the western part of Poland. Both Alina’s parents survived on the “Other Side.” Her older brother, who left the ghetto well before her, was an active AK [Home Army] member and took part in the Polish uprising. … “I have received nothing but kindness from people. Who am I tp speak about the Shoah? I do, of course, speak about the Shoah—I do not hide my past experiences. But I have received the grace and the good fortune to be always with good people. No blackmailer [szmalcownik] was ever on my trail.” Rev. Karol Niemira, the auxiliary bishop of Pińsk, was forced to evacuate his home diocese in September 1939 after the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland. He returned to Warsaw where he had earlier been a parish priest at St.