«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Holocaust Library, 1986),43 at pages 236–37, record the assistance provided by the Jesuit priest, Fr. Adam 43 Unfortunately, this widely cited study is terribly flawed and one-sided, especially those chapters authored by Shmuel Krakowski.
Although there are relatively few documented examples of improper behaviour on the part of the Polish Catholic clergy, the authors state:
“As the recorded evidence shows, the attitudes of the priests towards the Jewish fugitives varied; and their influence upon the local population reflected the lack of unanimity.” The authors then set out in their survey three examples of unfavourable conduct and four positive ones. See Yisrael Gutman and Shmuel Krakowski, Unequal Victims: Poles and Jews During World War II (New York: Holocaust Library, 1986), pp.244–25. There is no mention, for example, of the extensive assistance provided by nuns, yet this book is treated by many Western historians as the leading text on the issue of wartime Polish-Jewish relations. Shmuel Krakowski also refers to a “report originating with the Polish Catholic Church,” covering the period from June 1 to July 15, 1941, which was transmitted to the Polish government in London by the Delegate’s Office (Delegatura), as exhibiting “anti-Semitic sentiments in their most extreme form.” The report is cited seemingly to corroborate the existence of widespread hostility toward Jews on the part of the Catholic Church. Ibid., 52–53.
Relying on Krakowski, that same document has been referred to recently by Israeli historian Saul Friedländer in his The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945 (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), pp.184–85. Friedländer stresses that it is “a report originating with the Polish church itself” and makes much of “its quasiofficial nature.” While conceding that it did not represent the general attitude of Polish Catholics toward Jews, he argues it indicated “some measure of concurrence” among the underground leadership with regard to the so-called Jewish question, which was supposedly characterized by “extreme anti-Jewish hatred,” as manifested in this report. British historian Richard J. Evans goes even further in his The Third Reich at War (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009), p.64, where he states: “As a semi-official report of the Polish Church to the exiled government declared in the summer of 1941, the Germans ‘have shown the liberation of Polish society from the Jewish plague is possible’.” He then concludes that the Polish Catholic Church not 120 Sztark, and nuns in the town of Słonim, in northeastern Poland. Fr. Sztark was the admininstrator of the parish in nearby Żyrowice and the chaplain of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Słonim.
He raised money for the Jews, took food to the ghetto, issued false baptismal certificates, and urged his parishioners to extend help. He brought abandoned Jewish children to the presbytery and then transferred them to the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who worked closely with him, and to the gardener Józef Mikuczyn, who hid a Jewish boy brought to him. These activities eventually cost Fr. Sztark, Bogumiła Noiszewska (Sister Maria Ewa), a medical doctor, and Kazimiera Wołowska (Sisters Maria Marta), the mother superior of the convent—their lives. They were executed on December 19, 1942, on Pietralewice Hill outside Słonim. All three of them were recognized posthumously by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentiles.
Rafal Charlap recalls: A priest named Stark [actually, Adam Sztark], still a young man of about thirty, was doing his utmost to provide the Jews with free forged “Aryan” documents. He called upon his parishioners to extend help to the Jews, and persuaded the Poles he trusted to shelter Jewish fugitives. One of the Jews he saved was a young boy, Jureczek [now Jerry David Glickson, whom he had first hidden in the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary], for whom Stark found a hiding place with a gardener, Josef [Józef] Mikuczyn. The orphaned boy survived the war there, and was later picked up by his uncle. In the summer of 1941, the Germans exacted from the Jews of Slonim [Słonim] ghetto a “contribution” of gold. As the deadline approached, the Jews were still 1/2 kilogram short of the quota which the Germans demanded. In order to enable the Jews to fill the quota, Father Stark organized the collection of golden crosses from his parishioners. When the Germans learned of Stark’s activities, they arrested and shot him together with the Slonim Jews, in their mass execution in Petrolowicze [Petrołowicze or Pietralewice].
In the same town of Slonim, the Jews received much help from Dr. Nojszewska [actually, Bogumiła Noiszewska—Sister Maria Ewa of Providence from the above-mentioned order, who is incorrectly described as a “former nun”], the director of the municipal hospital. She sheltered the small son of her Jewish colleague, Dr. Kagan. The Germans were notified and shot her together with the child.
The following account of the last days of Fr. Sztark’s like was authored by the Jesuit priest Vincent A.
Lapomarda (Inside the Vatican, May 2000, pp.52–53). (According to another version, Fr. Sztark was arrested along with the two Sisters and murdered the following day, December 19, 1942.) It was in the final phase of their “final solution” that the Gestapo broke into the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on December 19, 1942. The convent was in the [prewar Polish] provincial area of Nowogrodek [Nowogródek], in Slonim [Słonim]. The religious community was under Mother Superior Kazimiera Wolowska [Wołowska] (1879–1942) whose religious name was Sister Maria Marta. She was assisted by Bogumila [Bogumiła] Noiszewska (1885–1942) who was known in religious life as Sister Maria Ewa. Both had been hiding and caring for orphaned Jewish children, whom Father Sztark had been rescuing and bringing to them. The children had been hidden in the attic of the convent of the nuns.
only did not take a clear stance against the Germans’ murderous policies towards Polish Jews, “if anything, the opposite was the case.” The document in question is reproduced in its entirety in Krzysztod Jasiewicz, Pierwsi po diable: Elity sowieckie w okupowanej Polsce 1939– 1941 (Białostocczyzna, Nowogródczyzna, Polesie, Wileńszczyzna) (Warsaw: Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN and Rytm, 2001), pp.1195–1203. The report does not set out the name of its author (a reading of the text indicates it was written by one person); the author may not even have been a member of the clergy; and, on its face, the report does not purport to be an official document of the Church in Poland or to express the views of its leadership. It is difficult to understand how leading Holocaust historians could manage to overlook these obvious characteristics and attribute it to the Church as a whole. The report was analyzed incisively by Polish historian Tomasz Szarota, who points out these obvious facts and provides some valuable context and perspective. Szarota surmises that the author may not have been a member of the clergy at all, but notes that he did have access to some members of the Episcopate. The author’s personal views gravitate toward the extreme elements within the Church such as Rev. Stanisław Trzeciak. When he wrote the report, the Holocaust was not yet underway and therefore the author clearly did not have in mind the physical annihilation of the Jews. In any event, the mainstream factions of the Polish underground did not share the author’s extremist views. The author’s call for the mass emigration of Polish Jews was something that was in fact being championed at that time by Zionist circles and their supporters in the West, who called for the creation of a national Jewish state in Palestine populated by two million Jews from Poland. See Tomasz Szarota, “‘Sprawozdanie kościelne z Polski za czerwiec i połowę lipca 1941go roku’: Próba analizy dokumentu,” in Julian Warzecha, ed., Słowo pojednania: Księga pamiątkowa z okazji siedemdzisiątych urodzin Księdza Michała Czajkowskiego (Warsaw: Biblioteka “Więzi,” 2004), pp.669–82; the article also appeared in Tomasz Szarota, Karuzela na Placu Krasińskich: Studia i szkice z lat wojny i okupacji (Warsaw: Rytm, and Fundacja “Historia i Kulutura”, 2007), pp.198–216.
121 Though the sisters lived in fear of a Nazi search, they were completely surprised when armed men broke into their convent. A thorough search soon located the Jewish children in the attic. Since hiding Jews was a crime punishable by death, the Gestapo tortured the sisters to extract any information they could use to continue their campaign against the Jews. When the sisters refused to betray any of those helping them in their clandestine activities, the Nazis, that very day, took both sisters out to a nearby execution site, a place called Gorki Pantalowickie [Góra Pietrołowicka]. There they forced the nuns into a pit and shot them.
Within ten days of the execution of Blessed Maria Marta and Blessed Maria Ewa, the Gestapo caught up with Father Sztark. The priest’s life had been in danger for years. First during the hostile occupation by the Soviets and then by the Nazis. He never hesitated to serve as a shepherd for the defenseless, first as the pastor for parishioners in Zyrowice [Żyrowice], then for Jewish childrlen who had managed to survive the round up and slaughter of their parents. The priest repeatedly risked his life by collecting the children and concealing them in his rectory until he was able to secretly take them to the relative safety of the Immaculate Conception Convent. He fully knew that keeping these Jewish children out of the hands of the Nazis would cost him his life if he should be discovered. It is clear that he began this work and continued to carry it out in respect to to the Gospel command to “love your neighbor.” Just as the Gestapo came in suddenly on the sisters in the convent on December 19th, so on December 27th their command car appeared without warning in front of the priest’s house in Zyrowice. The startled priest was immediately ordered to leave without taking anything with him. He asked if he could take bread in order to say Mass. The Gestapo agent leading the Jesuit away sardonically said: “Where you are going, there’s plenty of bread!” This merciless tone of the SS man told Father Sztark that his end was near. He submitted, simply saying: “It is my martyrdom.” Father Sztark still had one more night to live, however. It was not until the following day that he was packed into a truck filled with others who had defied the laws of the Nazi occupation. They were taken to the same place, Gorki Pantalowickie, where the two Sisters of the Immaculate Conception had been killed just a few days previously, the same site which the Nazis used for their executions of the Jews in that area. When they arrived there, Father Sztark, like his fellow victims, was ordered to undress himself. He was prepared to meet his Maker, but he wanted to do so in the black robe of the Jesuit Order of which he was such a faithful member. So he told his executioners he would not undress, saying he wanted to die in his robe. For some reason his killers granted him his last wish.
The Nazis forced him along with all their victims into a pit, and began riddling them with bullets. The priest, though mortally wounded, was not immediately killed. In one last great display of will and in excruciating pain he managed to stand and gasp out these final, glorious words: “All for Christ the King! Long Live Poland!” The rescue efforts of Rev. Franciszek Smorczewski of Stolin in Polesie (Polesia), who has been recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile, are described in Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, at pages 728–29.
On Rosh Hashanah 5703 (September 11, 1942), during the Aktion in the Stolin ghetto in the Polesie district, the Germans left a number of Jews and their families behind to run the local hospital. The Jews—Dr. Hersh Rotter (later Henry Reed), his wife, Ewa, and their three-year-old son, Aleksander, Dr. Marian Poznanski and his wife, Gina, Dr. Ernberg, a veterinarian, and his wife, Erna, and two Jewish nurses—were housed in the service quarters inside the hospital precinct.
Since it was clear that sooner or later they would share the fate of the Jews in the ghetto, they began to plan their escape.
Dr. Rotter turned to his friend Franciszek Smorczewski, the local priest, who encouraged him to escape, supplied his wife with a Christian birth certificate, and began enlisting the aid of local Poles to help the Jews in the hospital escape. The escape was planned for November 26, 1942. On the morning of that fateful day, a Polish girl warned the group that an SS detachment had arrived in Stolin. Toward evening, the Rotters escaped from the hospital to the home of a local Polish doctor, where Maria Kijowska, the wife of Wladyslaw [Władysław] Kijowski, the forester, was waiting for them in a horsedrawn wagon. Kijowska took them to her home in the forest, where they hid for a few days until her husband accompanied them to Stiepan and Agap Mozol, where the Jewish refugees stayed until February 1943, at which time they joined the partisans. The other Jews who were left in the hospital were smuggled out in a similar fashion and found their way to partisan units in the forest.
A small circumcised boy with a broken leg, who was brought by his mother to St. Lazarus Hospital in Kraków for medical care, had to be relocated to a convent outside the city after a German inspection at the hospital threatened his life. (Friedman, Their Brothers’ Keepers, pp.16–17.) There are known cases of hospital personnel hiding Jewish women. On occasion, even a Jewish male desperate for shelter 122 was accommodated in a hospital bed, although the presence of a circumcised patient imperiled the whole staff. During the Nazi reign of terror in Cracow, a Jewish mother brought her small boy to St. Lazarus Hospital. The boy had a broken leg.