«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Several days later, at the beginning of January 1942, I fled from Lwow together with Uncle Ludwik, Aunt Stefa and cousin Zbyszek, leaving Stanislawow even farther behind … Other Polish accounts confirm the cooperation of the priests of St. Anthony’s Church in Lwów in rescuing Jewish children. (Kurek, Your Life Is Worth Mine, p.140.) The father of Tadeusz Jaworski (the going by the name of Vogel), who was the director of the electrical works in Lwów, obtained birth and baptismal certificates for the family in the name of Jaworski from a parish priest outside the city, without any compensation. These documents helped the Vogel family survive the war passing as Christian Poles. (Michał Maryniarczyk, “Ja cię przechowam! Konspekt scenariusza filmu dokumentalnego,” punkt.ca, no. 5–6 (2006), pp.10–11.) The Sacré-Coeur Sisters sheltered a number of Jews in their convent in Lwów. Among them were the two sisters and brother-in-law of Herman Flajszer (passing as Henryk Repa). (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, p.838.) During the war, Janina Urbaniak-Nowicka lived in Warsaw. In February 1943, she married Henryk Repa. In May 1943, the Germans arrested Henryk in the street [after he was betrayed by a Jew he knew from Lwów who worked with the Gestapo in Warsaw] and brought him home. It was only then that Janina realized that her husband was Jewish and that his real name was actually Herman Flajszer.
48 Account of Berta Kahane, Yad Vashem archives, no. 03/2541.
142 ghetto. All these fugitives were sheltered in Janina’s Warsaw apartment. [At the beginning of 1944 Janina again went to Lwów to bring the remainder of Henryk’s family to Warsaw, namely two sisters and a brother-in-law. However, they refused to leave their hiding place in the convent of the Sacré-Coeur Sisters.49] In June 1944, she brought them over for “summer vacation” to Golkowo [Gołków], near Piaseczna [Piaseczno]. There, her mother-in-law was represented as her mother while Anna was passed off as Janina’s daughter. A few days prior to the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Janina took Henryk to Warsaw, since in Radosc the Germans were recruiting men to dig trenches. During the uprising, their house was bombed and both of them found themselves in Pruszkow [Pruszków] camp. Henryk escaped from a transport to Germany and went to his mother in Golkowo; he then found Janina in Mogielnica. After the liberation of Mogielnica in January 1945, Henryk and Janina separated … Felicja Kohn, a native of Lwów, recalled the assistance provided to Jews, among them her own mother, by Sister Maria Homme of the Sacré-Coeur order in Lwów. (Bartoszewski and Lewin, Righteous Among Nations, p.262.) My mathematics teacher, godmother and great friend of mine, a Sacré-Coeur nun, Maria Homme, meeting my mother wearing an arm band in the street, took her by the arm and walked by her side down the street—a very dangerous thing to do. A friend of mine had been staying with the same Sister Homme for some time.
Anita Lanner, another resident of Lwów, was six years old when the war broke out. Her parents were divorced.
She survived with the help of a number of Poles, including a priest and nuns. (Pat Launer, “The Girl With the Pink Glasses: Survivor Anita Lanner Found Healing Through Hatha,” San Diego Jewish Journal, August 2007.) During the German Occupation, they were relocated to the Ghetto, along with tens of thousands of others. “I’d sneak in from where I was hiding to visit my father, who was in another area. I knew if they would catch me, it would be the end.” When she was 8 years old, her father decided to move. He ended up in the Warsaw Ghetto and participated in the famous Uprising, where he lost his life.
Meanwhile, back in Lvov [Lwów], a friend of her father’s, an unmarried Polish physician, smuggled Anita out of the Ghetto and took her in as his out-of-wedlock daughter.
“He was a very nice, good man. His mother took care of me. There were others hiding there, and one day, the Gestapo came and led us all out into the street, under guns. Suddenly, I heard this voice, I don’t know where it came from, and it said, ‘Run, now!’ I hesitated, because I didn’t know where to go. Then I felt a push on my shoulder and I ran. It was some kind of miracle. Maybe it was the survival voice. Maybe it was the ‘pink glasses.’ I always believed I would live.
“I didn’t know where to run. So I went back to the apartment they took me from. The doctor’s mother took me to my mother, who was hiding with a Polish woman. I was placed with another family. Every time they had visitors, they’d hide me in a little hope-chest, with holes to breathe.
“With them, I had to go to church. The priest baptized me and prepared me for my first communion. He took care of me;
maybe he knew I was Jewish. He found a place for me in a Polish orphanage. … “I was at the orphanage for about a year. Then, in 1944, when the Russians started moving west, the Germans told the orphanage to repatriate. So we went to Krakow [Kraków], where we were dumped in a nun’s cloister. The nuns didn’t have enough money to support us, so they gave us up for adoption. A wealthy couple adopted me. They had a lot of land, stables and orchards. I loved the country life. Then the Germans and Russians came and took everything. So I was given back—this time to a communist/government orphanage.
Assistance of various kinds came from priests throughout Poland. The following testimonies are recorded in Tomaszewski and Werbowski, Żegota, at pages 116, 120, 137, and 138.
Pesa Cimerman (Achtman): Mrs. Cimerman’s sister, who was hidden at the Kopers’ [in the Warsaw suburb of Praga], had once been rescued by a priest, Oskar Wiśniewski, when she was discovered in a hiding place, dirty and ragged. It was obvious she was Jewish, but Wiśniewski was called upon to identify her. He insisted she was a parishioner and took her home until another place could be found.
Zofia Berczyńska: Ilonka Freedman, [then a five-year-old girl with very Semitic features who was entrusted to Wacław Berczyński by a Jewish co-worker at the German factory in Częstochowa in which they worked], soon became [a niece by the name of] Irena Gawrońska, after a local priest gave her an authentic birth certificate of a deceased child.
49 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.380.
143 Richard Kalinowicz, [a captain in the Polish army when the war began, Kalinowicz—of Jewish origin—became a Home Army unit commander in the Sambor region]: He recalled that there was a prisoner in the Sambor jail who worked as a pośmieciuch, a cleaning man. He was a priest who had been arrested for helping Jews. On a whim, the Gestapo officer in charge did not have him shot but kept him there as a janitor. It seems he was amused by his praying, his “conversations with God” as he called them. This priest/janitor used to conceal food in his cleaning equipment and give it to the Jewish prisoners. … Procuring documents was a steady part of the unit’s work. Birth certificates were obtained regularly from a Father [Antoni] Żołnierczyk in Sambor, though Kalinowicz did not hesitate to forge some himself. He still had the official rubber stamp from St. Elizabeth Parish in Lwów. … The Dipel family of Sambor ran one of the largest shelters [for Jews]. The mother and her brother, Father Stojakowski, were famous for their help. The three sons, Tadeusz, Julian and Juliusz, all belonged to Kalinowicz’s unit and to Żegota.
Stanisław Karliński (nom de guerre “Burza”), a Home Army unit commander in the Piotrków Trybunalski region, oversaw the preparation of hundreds of false identity documents by a special cell in his underground organization. Involved in this operation were trusted workers in the county office as well as Catholic parishes that issued false birth certificates which were required to obtain or produce Kennkarte (German identity documents).
Some of those priests, identified fifty years later, were: Rev. Marian Skoczewski (“Ksawery”), Rev. Patora from Kamieńsk, Rev. Jan Golonka and Rev. Stanisław Musiał from Ręczno, Monsignor Secomski from Bąkowa Góra, Rev. E. Gązka from Lubień, priests from the parishes of Sulejów, Paradyż, Żarnów, Kazimierzów, Przedbórz, and Piotrków, and the Bernardine Fathers.50 The risks involved in such exploits were substantial. Rev. Jan Widłak, the pastor of Miechów and a Home Army chaplain, worked closely with an underground cell of the Home Army that “legalized” documents for endangered persons. With his permission, Franciszek Grzebieluch, the church organist, issued hundreds of baptismal and birth certificates which were then used to obtain false German identity documents (Kennkarte), with the assistance of Marian Urbański, a county clerk, who fabricated the documents, and Bronisław Falencki, who distributed them. More than a dozen Jews were provided with such documents. One of them, Maria Bochner from Miechów, was arrested in Przemyśl on March 12, 1943, and interrogated about the source of her false documents.
As a result, Falencki was promptly arrested and sent to Auschwitz. He was tortured cruelly (his genitals were crushed with pliers) in order to extract from him the names of his accomplices. Some of them were apprehended by the Germans and executed. The church organist went into hiding for the duration of the war. Rev. Jan Widłak also placed Jewish children in the county orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and in private homes of his parishioners. In 1942, he received a Jewish couple from Wieluń by the name of Walter, who had converted to Catholicism. Previously, the Walters had been sheltered by Rev. Szczepan Sobalkowski, vicerector of the Higher Seminary in Kielce, who served as chaplain of the Kielce District of the National Armed Forces. Rev. Sobalkowski took the Walters under his roof even though he resided next door to the German gendarmerie. He continued to provide assistance to them (food and the like) when they moved to Miechów where they survived the war passing as Poles. Rev. Sobalkowski’s exploits came to light after he was arrested by the Communist security police in 1948. The Walters came forward in his defence during his show trial, and Rev.
Sobalkowski drew a relatively lenient sentence of seven years. After his release from prison, he was appointed the auxiliary bishop of Kielce.51 Rev. Mieczysław Połoska, the pastor of Kielce-Białogonie, provided false baptismal and birth certificates to Jews and assisted them materially. After the war, the Communist authorities arrested Rev. Połoska, together with Bishop Czesław Kaczmarek and several other priests from Kielce, on trumped up politically motivated charges. A Jewish woman named Rachela Klasztorna came forward in his defence during his show trial, testifying to the 50 Statement of Stanisław Burza-Karliński dated February 9, 1993.
51 Marek J. Chodakiewicz, After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II (Boulder, Colorado: East European Monographs; New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p.195; Bartoszewski and Lewinówna, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, 2nd ed., pp.858–59; Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One, Entry 317; Daniel Wojciechowski, “Ksiądz biskup Szczepan Sobalkowski (1901–1958)—charyzmatyczny kaznodzieja i wychowawca młodzieży,” Nasz Dziennik, July 28–29, 2007; Daniel Wojciechowski, “Zasłużony w ratowaniu Żydów skazanych na zagładę: Ksiądz infułat Jan Widłak (1892–1974),” Nasz Dziennik, September 27–28, 2008.
144assistance he provided to Jews and righteous character.52
Despite his reputation of being an anti-Semite, Rev. Marian Pirożyński was active in rescuing Jews—a fact confirmed by Jewish witnesses who came forward in his defence at an anti-clerical show trial in the mid-1950s.