«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
“You did a very bad thing,” he told her. “You should have given the child the refuge she was looking for, or at least you should have let her go to look for it elsewhere. You did a very wicked thing. Jesus will not forgive you and I cannot take your guilt on my conscience.” The old woman went home and, after a short time, she died.
During the round-up of Jews in a village near Olkusz, an old woman became frightened by the sudden appearance of an unknown Jewish girl at her door and alerted a nearby German soldier nearby who shot the child on the spot.
Her confession was recorded in Chava Kwinta, I’m Still Living (Toronto: Simon & Pierre Publishing Company, 1974), at pages 159–60.
Not far from the little town of Olkush [Olkusz] the Germans rounded up all the Jews to have them sent away. One mother, desperately wanting to save her child, told her to run away, to go as far as she could and then ask some Polish family to take her in as their daughter. She was a clever little girl of eight, and she managed to steal away. She was wearing a nice summer dress. In a village she knocked on one of the doors. An old woman appeared. “Grandma,” the child appealed to her, “will you take me for your daughter?” The old woman did not think; automatically she called a Nazi soldier. … she said to him, “Here’s a Jewish girl.” The German shot the child on the spot. The old woman did not expect that, she thought he would simply take the child away; and she could find no peace. She went to her priest for confession.
“You did a very bad thing,” he told her. “You should have given the child the refuge she was looking for, or at least you
Throughout occupied Poland, Poles were encouraged to purchase or, less often, simply take Jewish property after the Germans had deported the Jews from the town. A Jewish woman passing as a Pole recalled how Rev.
Stanisław Marchewka, the pastor of the former Cistercian monastery church in Jędrzejów near Kielce, implored the faithful in his sermons not to acquire property confiscated from the Jews: “People, do not go there. Don’t buy any of those things. Don’t take anything, because it is stained with blood.” (Memoir of Sabina Rachel Kałowska, Uciekać, aby żyć [Lublin: Norbertinum, 2000], pp.93–94.) A Polish family sheltered Goldie Szachter, a Jewish girl, on their farm near Świętomarz near Bodzentyn. They confided in the village priest, Rev. Eugeniusz Skrzypczyk, who assisted in the pretence that the child was a member of the family—their niece—and a Catholic. The Jewish girl would later write, “I nevertheless recognized the beauty of the spirituality of the church services as well as its sanctifying influence on the Polish peasant household in general.” (Goldie Szachter Kalib, with Sylvan Kalib and Ken Wachsberger, The Last Selection: A Child’s Journey Through the Holocaust [Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991], pp.161, 163–64.) Irene Bau (née Landesdorfer), born in Kraków in 1929, and her mother Regina were able to pass as Christians, after her mother received a false identity document in the name of Zofia Głowacz from a priest in Koszyce, a village north of Bochnia. Later, when living in the village of Wiśniowa near Strzyżów, suspecting that she was Jewish, the local police seized Irene’s identity card. Irene went to confession in and confided in a priest that she was a Jew in hiding. The priest went to the police station and told the police chief, “Give the girl back her papers.
I knew her parents. The girl is not Jewish.” The police chief complied. With her papers back, she was able to find a job in a store and continued working there until the area was liberated by the Soviet army. (Bill Tammeus and Jacques Cukierkorn, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2009), pp.25–31.) A young Jewish girl travelling on a train to Kraków survived a German inspection after being protected by Rev.
Alfons Walkiewicz, a priest who was unknown to her. He then placed her with a Polish family in Kocmyrzów where she survived the war. Her brother Aleksander Allerhand relates this story in Isakiewicz, Harmonica, at pages 76–77, 81.
Meanwhile, there was no news about my other sister. We thought she had perished. But after some time Mr and Mrs Kwiatek let me know in the camp that she had come back, and that she was at Kocmyrzów, near Kraków. What had happened? Those people she used to stay with—a Polish woman and a Ukrainian—after a year, more or less, told her, ‘You may go to Kraków.’ She was going by train. In the compartment with her, there was a priest wearing a cassock, whom she knew from Monasterzyska [where she had been sheltered] and who escorted her to Kraków. She had no papers, and all of a sudden the Germans were there to check documents.
‘Documents, papers,’ they demanded.
The priest said, ‘This is my sister.’ And they left.
My sister had already told the priest that her daddy was a Polish officer in captivity, and Mummy was at Auschwitz for selling pork fat. She said she was now going to Kraków where she did not know anyone, as she came from Bydgoszcz. And the priest took her to his friends from Bydgoszcz (Bydgoszcz had been incorporated into the Third Reich as soon as the war had started), who were moving to a small town—Kocmyrzów.
The priest’s name was Alfons Walkiewicz.
The priest’s friends had a buffet in Kocmyrzów. They were Genowefa Kunegunda and Roman Kłosowski. They immediately treated my sister as if she were one of the family. She even began to go to school. She shared a bed with the family servant, Czesia. At one point Czesia started doubting my sister’s history, as some of the facts did not fit. Anyway, they deduced that they were both Jewish, but they did not give it away to one another. They were both ready to deny it, because you couldn’t be sure who was a spy and who wasn’t. They did not tell each other the truth until after the war.
Nowadays, Czesia, then some twenty years old, lives in Jerusalem. She comes from Sanok. … My sister stayed in touch with Father Walkiewicz till he died, which was in the 1980s.
In 1940, Oscar and Frieda Haber were sent to a forced-labor camp in Pustkow [Pustków], near Brzeznica [Brzeźnica], the village where they were born in Debica [Dębica] county, Rzeszow [Rzeszów] district. Oscar, a dentist, had treated many of the people in his village and he and Father Aleksander Osiecki, the local priest and one of his patients, had become fast friends. To help them, Osiecki issued Haber and his wife Christian birth and marriage certificates, which they used to obtain Aryan papers. In August 1942, when the Germans were about to liquidate the camp, the Habers decided to flee. The priest directed them to the home of relatives of his who lived in the nearby village of Jurkow [Jurków], and they remained there, working on the farm, until May 1943. Following information provided by informers, the Gestapo raided the village, but the Habers spotted them in time and managed to escape to the forest. At this point, Haber and his wife realized that they could no longer hide out in the village and in their distress returned to Franiczesk Musial [Musiał], a Polish laborer who had worked alongside them on the farm and with whom they had become friendly. Musial empathized with the Jewish fugitives’ suffering and took the Habers to the home of Jan and Anna Stalmach, his sister and brother-inlaw, who lived with their son, Adam, in Tworkowa, a remote village in Brzesko county, in the Cracow district. Motivated by pure altruism, the Stelmach family received the Habers warmly and hid them in their home for a year and a half, providing them with all their needs until their liberation, without asking for or receiving anything in return.
Rev. Jan Patrzyk, the pastor of Medenice near Drohobycz, rescued the daughter of a Jewish doctor and acquaintance by taking her to his native village where she survived the war. He was recognized by Yad Vashem as
a Righteous Gentile. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5:
Poland, Part 2, p.590.) Dr. Meir Eisenberg, a Jewish doctor, and Jan Patrzyk, a priest, had become friends before the war when they both served in Medenice, near Drohobycz, in Eastern Galicia. During the occupation, Patrzyk was transferred to the village of Lipinki in Gorlice country, Cracow district, and Eisenberg was deported with his family to the Drohobycz ghetto. In 1942, after losing his wife in an Aktion, Eisenberg decided to try to save at least his 15-year-old daughter, Judit. He turned to his friend Father Patrzyk and smuggled the girl into his home. Patrzyk took the Jewish girl under his wing and obtained Aryan papers for her [from Rev. Franciszek Zmarzły of Racławice, in the name of Anna Maziarz]. She became a part of his family, and his sister, Barbara Patrzyk, cared for her as if she were her own sister. After the war, when Patrzyk discovered that his friend Meir Eisenberg, the girl’s father, had perished, Judit remained under his care and continued her studies in the local high school. Only after a year, when an aunt of the girl’s was found, was she handed over to her, all without asking for or receiving anything in return. Judit eventually immigrated to Israel … Rev. Antoni Osikowicz (sometimes given as Osikiewicz), the pastor of Drohobycz, in southeastern Poland, exhorted his parishioners to help Jews, provided Jews with false documents, and intervened on their behalf with the German authorities. Rev. Osikowicz was eventually deported to Majdanek for his rescue activities and perished there on December 29, 1943. He was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, p.568.) On August 2, 1942, on the eve of the Aktion in the city of Boryslaw [Borysław], in Eastern Galicia, Berta Brawer gave birth to her son, Dani, and decided to do everything in her power to save his life. She heard that a Catholic priest, Father Osikiewicz [Osikowicz], was hiding Jewish children, and Brawer appealed to him for help. After he explained that he had no place for infants, the priest suggested that she look for a Christian woman willing to hide the baby and take care of him. He also promised to provide the baby with a Christian birth certificate. In her distress, Brawer appealed to Stanislawa [Stanisława] Fedorcio, with whom she had become acquainted before the war when she had done housework for Brawer’s neighbors. At first, Fedorcio hesitated, fearing for her life, but after the priest found out that she had been approached he invited Fedorcio to be the baby’s godmother at his baptism ceremony. After the ceremony, he convinced her that as the baby’s Catholic godmother she was required to safeguard the baby’s life, otherwise God would not forgive her. Convinced, Fedorcio took the baby home and for three years raised him as her own, taking care of all his needs.
Brawer survived and after the war Fedorcio returned the baby to her safe and sound.
According to Jewish testimonies, assistance from priests and nuns in Drohobycz was extensive. (Andrzej Chciuk, ed., Saving Jews in War-Torn Poland, 1939–1945 [Clayton, Victoria: Wilke and Company, 1969], p.48.) In a letter from a Drohobyczian Mrs. Lola Getlinger received from Brazil in 1959 … she refers to cases where the Polish Roman Catholic and also the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic clergy issued literally hundreds of false birth certificates to Jewish people, so as to enable them to be regarded as Aryans. Among others, Mrs. Getlinger’s whole family was issued with such papers.
Extremely helpful in this task were Fathers Dr. Kazimierz Kotula and Banaszak [actually Rev. Stanisław Banaś, who provided false baptismal certificates and shelter to Jews]. The monasteries of the Capuchin and Bazylian [Basilian] Brothers gave refuge to a large number of Jewish children.
Some of the assistance provided by Polish Jesuits to Jews as well as others has been chronicled in Vincent A.
Lapomarda, The Jesuits and the Third Reich (Lewiston/Queenston and Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1989), at pages 124–25, 129–31.
Father [Tomasz] Rostworowski entered the Jesuit Order at the age of nineteen and was ordained a priest on 23 June
1935. Engaged in the fight for Warsaw under the title of Ojciec Tomasz (Father Tomasz), he served as chaplain in the main command. With the setback of the revolt, he was originally believed to have perished until he was found very heroically helping the wounded in the underground. Tragically, his sorrow at the failure of the uprising was compounded by helplessly witnessing the slaughter by the Nazis of the wounded prisoners shortly after he had distributed Holy Communion to them. At the same time, his heroic activities included that of providing secret shelter for Jews hunted by the Gestapo.
As for Father [Józef] Warszawski, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1924 and was ordained a priest on 18 June 1933.
He was known as Ojciec Paweł (Father Paul) in the underground which he joined in October of 1941 where he served under the command of Colonel Radosław (Jan Mazurkiewicz) in a unit that had at least fifty Jews engaged in the uprising.
Despite the Gestapo’s constant surveillance of the two Jesuit houses in Warsaw, Father Warszawski was able to warn some Jews about the Nazis and to help those rescued from the Warsaw Ghetto find lodging and even escape death. … After the capitulation of Warsaw, he escaped for a short time from the Gestapo with a number of others in the Polish underground. When he was caught, he was imprisoned first in the Gestapo Center (Aleje Szucha) in Warsaw and, then, taken to various places until he ended up in Germany where he was freed as a prisoner of war during the liberation, on 29 April 1945, of Stalag XB at Sandbötsel by the Canadians. … Father [Jerzy] Mirewicz was ordained a priest on 24 June 1938 and was caught up in the turmoil of events that overwhelmed Poland during the war. The Nazis had imprisoned Jews in the temporary camp on Lipowa Street in Lublin shortly after the invasion of Poland before Majdanek, the major concentration camp in the Lublin area, was built. It was in these circumstances that Father Mirewicz was instrumental in rescuing seventeen Jews in 1940.