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«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»

-- [ Page 52 ] --

While residing in Mościska from November 1942 to May 1943, Rev. Pirożyński assisted in the escape of Jews from the ghetto, among them Zofia Katz, the daughter of a dentist, to whom he provided false documents. The Redemptorist monastery in Mościska sheltered a number of Jews. Rev. Pirożyński cared for a 2-year-old girl who was thrown out of a tram by her mother in Warsaw and placed her with Leokadia and Maria Wochelski. He found safe houses for Jewish children in Skierniewice. Rev. Pirożyński fell under suspicion and had to change his place of residence and hide from the Germans several times.53 Alicja Kleinberg, the wife of a dentist from Rabka, and her young daughters Ewa and Hanka (Anna), took refuge in the countryside near Biecz where they passed as Poles. In August 1942, a few days before the liquidation of the local ghetto, Mrs. Kleinberg turned to her friend Marian Sikorski, headmaster of the elementary school in the village of Szerzyny, who helped the Kleinbergs escape from the ghetto. After sheltering them for a few months and obtaining Aryan papers for them in the name of Janowski, the Kleinbergs moved to a house in a nearby village which Sikorski had rented for them. He continued to look after the Kleinbergs until their liberation in January 1945. Their cover depended on the support of various persons including a village priest. (Accounts of Ewa Janowska-Boisse, née Kleinberg and Anna Janowska-Ciońćka, née Kleinberg, “Father Never Returned from Exile,” in Gutenbaum and Latała, The Last Eyewitnesses, volume 2, pp.100–102.) Not wanting to endanger the Sikorskis, Mother decided to move to the nearby village of Święcany. We moved in with a family of farmers named Szynal. Mama told the farmers that she was an officer’s wife and that this was the reason why it was safer for her to live with the children in the countryside. We had instructions from Mama to bite our lips, because their natural fullness could give away our origins. Nonetheless, our black hair, which stayed curly despite constant brushing, still betrayed us. … The winters were cold and harsh back then. Toward the end of the war we didn’t go out of the house, because we had no warm clothes or shoes. Luckily, there were various people who helped Mama in all this misery. In order to create the appearance that we did have a family, that we were not in hiding, Lola, who herself was hiding on Aryan papers, would come to visit us. Endangering her own life, she brought us money from Aunt Zosia, who by then was already in the Kraków ghetto. A priest from a nearby parish also visited us, bringing us food from time to time. I remember that his name was Józef Wilk. Maria Wnęk, a relative of Mr. Sikorski’s, who was a teacher, would come through heavy snow to visit us. She walked on foot more than a dozen kilometres to instruct us in catechism and how to behave in church. … There were days when Mama would tell us to hide in the nearby woods, because she would get a tip that German gendarmes were coming into he village. At such times we were dying of fear, wondering whether we would still find Mama alive when we returned.

In this village, Mama met a man from Sieradz who had escaped from a train that was taking him to forced labor in Germany. His name was Władysław Nogala, an exceptionally good-hearted and noble man. He helped us, bringing us onions so that “the children wouldn’t get scurvy.” He also gave us chickens and whatever else he could obtain. Władysław Nogala was respected in the village and was involved with the partisans who were active in our area.

One day the village administrator, knowing that Władysław was friendly with Mama, told him that “people are talking that Mrs. Janowska is a Jew, and I will have to report this to the police.” [Village administrators were required to report the presence of Jews under penalty of death.—Ed.] Władysław Nogala replied, “If you do, your head will lie in this dunghill.” After this encounter the administrator was silent.

A priest from Gorzkowice near Radomsko who was involved in the underground, probably Rev. Jan Łabęda, the local pastor, came to the assistance of two Jews, Vovtche Raichbard and Shmuel Friedman, and provided them 52 Daniel Wojciechowski, “Dwukrotny więzień Mokotowa: Ks. Mieczysław Połoska (1896–1981),” Nasz Dziennik, January 5–6, 2008.

53 Bartoszewski and Lewinówna, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, 2nd ed., p.1022; ŻR 1, 717; Słownik polskich teologów katolickich 1918–1981 (Warsaw: Akademia Teologii Katolickiej, 1983), vol. 6, pp.684–85; Ryszard Bender, “Piorżyński Marian,” in Encyklopedia “Białych Plam” (Radom: Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne), vol. 14 (2004), pp.150–53; Elżbieta Rączy, Pomoc Polaków dla ludności żydowskiej na Rzeszowszczyźnie 1939–19451945 (Rzeszów: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2008), pp.78–79.

–  –  –

We must remined [i.e., be mindful of] all those people, not Jews, who gave their hand to save many of our town when they escaped from the Nazi murderers. Also in Lask [Łask] there were good Christians who suffered seeing how the Jews of their town suffered. In the hard days of distress and banishment, they endangered themselves by hiding Jews and giving them from their bread. Gabrionchik and his wife from Lask; he gave documents and food [to] two escapers: Vovtche Raichbard and Shmuel Friedman. A Christian woman emerged as a saver-angel, when they had to pass the boundary of the German protectorate [i.e., into the Generalgouvernement]. Heinzel, Skibinski [Skibiński]’s son-in-law, guided the two to the Polish secret organization in order to receive German documents, and hid them in his home some days. He gave them the address of Zvi Michalovitz in Grushkovitza [Gorzkowice], and did so that they would be accepted by a priest, who was the chief of the secret organization in this place. This priest, whose name is unknown, accepted them with bright face, and immediately gave them the necessary documents. The young Christian, who knew they were Jews, hid them in her parents’ house, telling them these two are Polish officers from Varsha [Warsaw], who escaped from the Gestapo.





The Polish policeman Krakovski, who saved Zvi Michalovitz from the death-waggon [sic], just in the last minute, and brought him to a refuge place. The family Banashchiek, who hid him in the threshing-floor, and gave him all he needed for lessons he gave their children in the nights. … The villagers who disperse pieces of bread and turnip on the ways, for the caravans of hungry people, who went under the watching of the S.S. The villagers who gave their shoes to [the] barefooted and weak. How can we forget the villagers who refused to give food [to] the watchers of the women-caravans who were transported from work-camp. Shraga Noiman tells about a Polish boy who worked as an electrician in Kolomna [?]. He offered to save the whole group of Jews that worked there, and to transfer them to a secure place near Varsha. This electrician and his fellows, who acted a period of time to save Jews, were caught at last be the Nazis.

We must remined a little of those sparks in order that our sons and daughters will know, that even in the darkness of extermination and killing, there were also cases of deeds of kindness. I cannot tell everything, only a little.

Zofia Reichman, who was born in Lwów in January 1941, describes how her mother was able to obtain, with the assistance of a priest from the parish of Our Lady of the Snows (Maryi Panny Śnieżnej) in Lwów, documents which assisted them to survive under false identities as Poles in the outlying village of Zima Woda. (Sophia

Richman, A Wolf in the Attic: The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust [New York, London and Oxford:

The Haworth Press, 2002], pp.15–16. The document is reproduced in the book between pages 106 and 107.) My mother had a number of close gentile friends, among them Stasia Drabicka. The two were linked by music. Stasia played the cello, and, before the war, they frequently enjoyed playing duets. Stasia was a Catholic, and she was related to a priest. As a member of the clergy, Stasia’s uncle was in a position to provide papers that could help my mother with her escape plan. Asking gentiles for this kind of help was a very risky business. There were severe reprisals for those helping Jews. … The plan for going into hiding had to be carefully implemented. Stasia’s uncle provided the birth, baptismal, and marriage certificates of a deceased Catholic parishioner, Maria Oleszkiewicz, born in 1908. My mother’s 1903 date of birth was close enough. It was arranged that I would be baptized as Zofia Oleszkiewicz. We had our new identities. Now we had to find a place to live where no one knew us. … The outskirts of Lwów seemed a good choice as a hiding place because it would allow us to remain relatively close to my father. There was always a distant hope that he might be freed or find a way out of Janowska [camp].

The Dominican monastery in Lwów manufactured documents for Jews on a large scale. (Zygmunt Mazur, “Dominikanie lwowscy w podwójnej niewoli,” Gazeta, Toronto, no. 144, 1991.) Priests from the monastery were moved by the tragedy of the Jews, especially Father Sylwester Paluch and Father Anzelm Jezierski. Not heeding the danger that faced them they provided material assistance to Jewish families. Father Sylwester, with the assistance of a painter by the name of Rzepecki, fabricated some 500 certificates of baptism and distributed them to Jews. The Gestapo became aware of these activities and it was only by sheer luck that the priests escaped repercussions.

Many Jews survived on these certificates and some of them attained high positions in postwar Poland. None of them, however, remembered about the humble priest from Lwów. Father Sylwester died in Warsaw on November 3, 1983. None of those rescued through his assistance attended his funeral. He was buried in the order’s graveplot in Powązki Cemetery

146in Warsaw.

Rev. Edward Tabaczkowski, pastor of Tłumacz, provided many Jews with false documents, among others to Berta Opoczyńska and Mina Bikels Rotenstreich. He also sheltered a Jewish student in his rectory and provided and other forms of assistance to Jews such as smuggling food into the ghetto and encouraging his parishioners to shelter Jews. Rev. Tabaczkowski did not heed the warning of his imminent arrest by the Gestapo. He was taken to the jail in Stanisławów where was tortured before being put to death on October 20, 1942. (Shlomo Blond, et al., eds., Memorial Book of Tlumacz: The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Community [Tel Aviv: Tlumacz Societies in Israel and the U.S.A., 1976], pp.cxxviii–cxxix.) According to Mina Bikels Rotenstreich, A few Jews escaped when the Polish physician, Dr. Zeno Hoffman, hid them in the hospital where he was working.

In 1942 the Gestapo arrested Dr. Hoffman and the Canon [Edward] Tabaczkowski, who risked his life by issuing baptism certificates to Jews so that they could escape to the Aryan side. We were given eight such certificates by Tabaczkowski, even though we had nothing to give him in return. The Polish pharmacist Shankowski [Szankowski] also helped the Jews as much as he could. Much of the valuables which Jews placed in his keeping were returned to them, although this was dangerous to do.

Dr. Solomon Altman of Złoczów obtained false birth and baptismal certificates for himself and his wife from a local priest. (I.M. Lask, ed., The City of Zloczow [Tel Aviv: Zloczower Relief Verband of America, 1967], columns 113, 115–16.) There were many priests who provided Jews they knew with original birth certificates in the names of persons long dead.

… I also know of a man, Kruth, who found refuge in the house of Rev. Dzieduszycki and embraced the Catholic faith together with his whole family. [The priest in question appears to be Rev. Paweł Dzieduszycki, a Jesuit from Lwów.—Ed.] Dr. Altman was one of at least forty-two Jews from Złoczów and Jelechowice rescued by a number of Polish families in the village of Jelechowice,54 which belonged to parish of Złoczów. Fourteen of them, including Samuel Tennenbaum, his wife, and their two children, were sheltered in various places on the property of Helena Skrzeszewska, a member of the Polish underground. The house was also occupied by a Polish teacher, Maria Koreniuk, and a Ukrainian handyman, Hryc Tyz, who later converted to Latin-rite Roman Catholicism and became known as Grzegorz. At one point Hryc became alarmed at the fact that Skrzeszewska had taken in yet another Jewish family, and out of fear and stress, rather than malice, voiced his displeasure.55 A priest counselled him to continue to support the Jewish charges. The priest’s intervention resulted in a dramatic change in Hryc’s attitude. (Samuel Lipa Tennenbaum, Zloczow Memoir [New York: Shengold, 1986], pp.252–53.) 54

See Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vol. 4: Poland, Part 1, pp.311, 422, and vol. 5:

Poland, Part 2, p.833; Lask, The City of Zloczow, columns 142–43; Tennenbaum, Zloczow Memoir, pp.228–78.

55 As Jewish testimonies disclose, some Jews were also hostile to the idea of accepting other Jews into their hiding places, as this would increase the risk of discovery, and Polish rescuers took in Jews over the protest of their existing Jewish charges. See, for example, the testimony of Braha Bergman and David Efrati in Elżbieta Isakiewicz, Harmonica: Jews Relate How Poles Saved Them from the Holocaust (Warsaw: Polska Agencja Informacyjna, 2001), pp.174, 219; Interview with Sheila Peretz Etons, April 30, 1999, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; David Shtokfish, ed., Sefer Drohiczyn (Tel Aviv: n.p., 1969), pp.26 ff. (English section); Issur

Wondolowicz, “Between the German Hammer and the Polish Anvil,” in Shmuel Kalisher, ed., Sokoly: B’maavak l’haim (Tel Aviv:

Organization of Sokoły Emigrés in Israel, 1975), pp.208 ff., translated as Sokoly: In the Fight for Life, Internet:



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