«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
In addition, at the end of the calendar year, the parson sent a register of all baptisms in his parish to the archdiocese, where each baptism was entered in the archdiocesan books. Both the parochial and the archdiocesan offices were, at the same time, offices of the civil state, providing data on the population to state registers. Therefore, even with the access to the archdiocesan books, it was dangerous to enter Karolina’s name into them because it could be easily discovered that her baptism had not been registered in the parochial books. To avoid this danger, it was necessary to find a church in which the parochial books of the period close to her birth had been destroyed, burnt during the First World War, between the two wars, or at the beginning of the Second World War. … After telling the bishop how grateful Karolina’s family was for his generous offer, Ludwik [Andrzej’s father] asked for a short delay before giving a definite answer. After a lapse of two weeks, he went to the diocese with a negative answer, carrying the message of immense gratitude of Karolina’s family and trying to explain the attitude of Juliusz [Karolina’s father]. The bishop was sad, but not surprised: ‘Unfortunately it is not the first time that we have seen such an attitude. We will pray for them with the hope that they will accept our offer and that when this happens it will not be too late. Sometimes just one hour, one minute, means life or death.
On the way home from a village parish located about 150 kilometres distant from Lwów, Andrzej witnessed on the train in which he was travelling a betrayal of a Jewish man by a young woman. (Ibid., pp.95–96.) After a short time the train stopped in a small railway station. The [German] policeman kicked the already unconscious old man out of the train and shot him.
There was silence, full of fear and terror, in the train. Even the informer did not say a word. After a while, when the train 140 began to move, a peasant in the corridor between Andrzej and the informer asked: ‘Why did you do this? How could you be so cruel?’ ‘Shut up,’ she shrieked. ‘I will ask the policeman to check you. Perhaps you are also a disguised Jew.’ The peasant did not say a word and moved towards the end of the corridor. The train was moving slowly, leaving on the platform the body of the massacred man.
The informer returned to her compartment. Opposite her sat a young priest. After a while, he said: ‘God will never forgive you. You, and not the policeman, you yourself killed this innocent, poor man. Even when, after confession, some priests might absolve you and forgive on this earth, I can assure you that God has condemned you already for ever. You will suffer for ever, because you are not a human being. You are an Evil. For Evil there is only one place—hell.’ The young woman started at once to cry. The priest returned to his breviary.
Lala Fishman (née Klara Weintraub) recalled the assistance that she and her Jewish friend Mila received from their Polish friends in Lwów when they decided that they would attempt to pass as Christians. They needed to become acquainted with Catholic prayers and rituals and secure birth certificates, which were furnished by an unidentified priest. (Lala Fishman and Steven Weingartner, Lala’s Story: A Memoir of the Holocaust [Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1997), pp.173–75.) It was time to leave Lvov [Lwów]. … Mila also felt as I did. When I broached the idea of leaving to her, she enthusiastically endorsed it. The success of the plan hinged on fulfilling two requirements obtaining “Aryan papers,” counterfeit documents that identified us as Poles; and learning how to pass ourselves off as Polish Catholics. We straightaway embarked upon a crash course in Catholic prayer and ritual. Our instructors were sympathetic Gentiles, boys and girls around my age. Several of them had been friends of Fima [her brother]; now they were my friends too.
Occasionally, they dropped by the apartment to drink tea and talk about the war and finally to help transform us into believable if not believing Catholics.
… Our friends taught us how to genuflect and make the sign of the cross with a convincing display of piety. They provided us with copies of the catechism, and we memorized all the material therein. They also gave us silver crucifixes to wear on chains around our necks, just like the ones every Gentile in Poland seemed to wear. I secretly resolved, however, that although I would attend mass and kneel and appear to pray like a Catholic, I would not take Holy Communion, I would go through all the motions of being a Catholic save this one; and when I prayed, I would make up my own prayer, silently asking God for his aid and protection. I meant no disrespect to the Catholic Church and Christians by these actions. Rather, I felt that it would be both sacriligious [sic] and blasphemous for me to do otherwise. I believed that for a Jew to willingly accept what Catholics believed was literally the body and blood of Christ would be a sin, an insult both to my Jewish heritage and to the Christians who were doing so much—and placing themselves in such danger—on my behalf.
At any rate, Mila and I engaged in our Christian studies with the diligence of nuns preparing to take their vows, and I daresay that before long we could have gone into any church in Poland and played the role of devout Catholics without arousing any suspicions whatsoever among the genuine Christians. Sadly, the same could not be said for my mother and sister. Rysia was just nine years old, and therefore too young to learn Catholic rites and prayers, much less comprehend the urgent necessity for doing so. And my mother, devastated by grief, had undergone what amounted to a nervous breakdown and was incapable of the intense effort that even a false conversion to Catholicism demanded from her.
Nevertheless, we pressed forward with the scheme. Getting Aryan papers would have to be our next step. But how? This problem was solved when some of Fima’s friends brought a Catholic boy named Staszek to the apartment for one of our evening get-togethers. Staszek had been told about our plans and wanted to help. He mentioned that he could get four blank birth certificates (metrycas [metryka]) from his parish priest. … Staszek got us the birth certificates. … We filled out the certificates with false names but with our actual birthdays. I decided that my name would be Urszula Krzyzanowska [Krzyżanowska].A very Christian name. My mother, Mila, and Rysia each took a different name. We did not want to appear in any way related—an important consideration if one of us was arrested. At the bottom of each document was a blank line where the parish priest was supposed to sign his name. I thought up a likely name for the priest and then, wielding my pen with a flourish, signed it on all the documents in bold, sweeping letters.
Rev. Kazimierz Romaszkan, a Pole of the Roman Catholic Armenian rite, and another unidentified priest from Lwów are mentioned as rescuers in testimonies found at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. (Eliyahu Yones, Smoke in the Sand: The Jews of Lvov in the War Years 1939–1944 [Jerusalem and New York: Gefen, 2004], p.252.
[Rev.] Romashkian [Romaszkan] … concealed the fifteen-year-old daughter of Bertha Kahana and treated her devotedly
Irena Wilder (later Krystyna Winecka or Christine Winecki), a young girl from Stanisławów (born in 1928), took refuge with her aunt in Lwów. Her aunt approached a Catholic priest, Rev. Józef Czapran, the vicar of St.
Anthony’s Parish, who provided the child with a false birth certificate. She was taught Catholic prayers by a nun to assist her in passing as a Pole. These lessons proved to be invaluable when Irena Wilder was later apprehended and interrogated in Warsaw. (Christine Winecki, The Girl in the Check Coat: Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland and a New Life in Australia [London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2007], pp.61–62.) When the train slowly arrived at the railway station in Lwow [Lwów] I was 130 kilometres from home … By midnight I found myself in the caring arms of Aunt Lucja [Łucja]. … At the sight of me she started to cry, and before long I too burst into tears. I was not aware at the time that Jews were also being killed in Lwow. … The Jews of Lwow were prepared for the worst. They knew their days were numbered and that those who could still save themselves had no time to lose. The following day Aunt Lucja took me to St Anthony’s Church in the suburb of Lyczakow [Łyczaków], where the local vicar, Father Czapran, issued me with a birth certificate from the parish registry of births, marriages and deaths for the year 1930. thus disappeared Irena Wilder, born in Stanislawow [Stanisławów], daughter of Oscar and Janina, of Jewish denomination, her place taken by Maria Wilska, female, aged 11, daughter of Katarzyna (father unknown), of Roman Catholic faith.
The same day Aunt Lucja placed me in the care of Uncle Ludwik and his wife Aunt Stefa who both lived in Grandmother Amalia’s hose in Mala [Mała] Street. Every morning now I would go to church, where the good Sister Benedykta taught me the words of the Catholic prayers. In the quiet, semi-dark atmosphere of the church permeated with the smell of incense, I felt safe there and I could cry uninterrupted.