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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 ...»

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http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/sokoly/sokoly.html; Samuel Gruber, as told to Gertrude Hirschler, I Chose Life (New York: Shengold, 1978), p.74; Gunnar S. Paulsson, Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), pp.157–58; Nelli Rotbart, A Long Journey: A Holocaust Memoir and After: Poland, Soviet Union, Canada (Montreal: The Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies and The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, 2002), pp.56–57; Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki, He Who Saves One Life (New York: Crown Publishers, 1971), p.128; Thomas Toivi Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1997), p.218; Bartoszewski and Lewinówna, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, 2nd ed., p.712; Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, vol. 4: Poland, Part 1, p.83; Marcus David Leuchter, “Reflections on the Holocaust,” The Sarmatian Review (Houston, Texas), vol. 20, no. 3 (September 2000); Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (Toronto: Key Porter, 2003), p.80.

147 Over several days, my wife began to notice that food was disappearing at twice the anticipated rate. Hela [Helena Skrzeszewka] at first denied any knowledge of it, but finally confessed to us that she had taken in another Jewish family, four people, who were sheltered in our former hiding place, the cellar under the barn. Their name as Parille; they had lived in Jelechowice before the war, had escaped the Germans and had been living in a hole in the ground in a nearby forest. Winter had made it impossible for them to try to survive there so one night, Mr. Parille came to Hela for help and she took them in.

They had nothing, so from then on we shared whatever we had with them. We never saw them. … A huge row ensued over this. Hryc, in broad daylight, ran into the yard and started to yell at the top of his lungs, … “She gathered a bunch of Jews and then disappeared for days at a time.” I grabbed a rusty revolver, which Hela had hidden under the bed in our room, and ran after Hryc. I managed to get him back into the house, he calmed down quickly. Next day he went to confession. When he came back, he kissed my wife’s hand and apologized for his behavior of the previous day. We were both happy and worried. Now the priest, too, knew about our presence. … People often ask what was the main factor that motivated our hosts. I believe that it was their deep faith.

St. Lazarus church in Kraków gained a reputation for providing Jews with false identity documents. Rev. Brunon Boguszewski also sought out hiding places for endangered Jewish children. His rescue efforts brought him recognition by Yad Vashem. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volumes 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, p.105.) Bruno [Brunon] Boguszewski, a priest, used his official position as birth registrar at Swietego Lazarza [Świętego Łazarza] (Saint Lazarus) Church, Cracow, to save Jewish children by issuing them Aryan birth certificates. Boguszewski’s reputation as a savior of Jewish children spread far and wide. One woman whose child was saved thanks to Boguszewski was Anna Carter who, after escaping from the Cracow ghetto, obtained a birth certificate for her daughter, Alina, aged eight. A little while later, Boguszewski also provided four-year-old Zygmunt, Alina’s brother, with an Aryan birth certificate. He gave Carter another five birth certificates issued in the names of Catholic children for distribution to those in need. The priest found a hiding place for little Alina in the home of acquaintances in Chrzanow [Chrzanów], where she stayed until the area was liberated in January 1945. Her brother, Zygmunt, was not so lucky—he was shot dead by the Germans after they were alerted by an informer. After the war, Alina was reunited with her mother, who had survived Auschwitz. Mother and daughter emigrated to the United States, where they kept up contact with Boguszewski.

Boguszewski knew full well the fate that awaited him if caught, since his predecessor, who had also supplied Jews with false certificates, had been imprisoned by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz. His actions were dictated by purely selfless, humanitarian and religious principles.

Documents obtained from Catholic Church sources were plentiful, with virtually every parish in Warsaw participating in this rescue activity, assisted by the Polish underground. Simha Rotem, a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization, describes how he obtained his false identity documents. (“Kazik” Simcha Rotem, Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994], pp.60–61.) You couldn’t be on the Aryan side without identity documents. … the Polish underground had helped me get a Kennkarte (the identity card issued by the Germans in the Generalgouvernement which replaced the Polish identity documents). I was sent to the office of a church in one of the Warsaw suburbs. I went to the clerk and requested a birth certificate (which was required in order to receive the Kennkarte). They had coached me in what to say. This was a document whose real owner, someone my age, was no longer alive. The clerk looked at me sharply and spat out: “Funny world—one person dies and aother walks around and impersonates him.” I didn’t say anything. He asked my address, the names of my parents, and the other details of questionnnaires everywhere in the world. I answered briefly and finally got the birth certificate.

From there I went to the registration office where Poles worked with Germans and Poles, and submitted a proper request for a Kennkarte. My fingerprints were taken like any other Polish citizen’s. At the end of this process I had a Kennkarte in the name of Antoni Julian Ksiezopolski [Księżopolski]—a common name among the Polish aristocracy. At the same time I got a forged Kennkarte from the Polish Underground in another name. I kept the document with the name Ksiezopolski with me, while the other one was kept at “home” in case of trouble. They also gave me an Arbeitskarte (proof of employment). [The final sentence is found in the Polish translation of this book, but omitted in the English version.—Ed.56] 56 See Simcha Rotem “Kazik”, Wspomnienia bojowca ŻOB (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1993), pp.73–75.

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I managed to obtain a genuine Kennkarte from the German Municipal Bureau in the name of Stanislawa Wonchalska [Stanisława Wąchalska], our faithful Gentile co-worker. Anna had arranged with her priest not to report her daughter’s death, and assured me that if I would be detained as a Jewess, she would intercede on my behalf. At the same time, she told me the names of grandmothers, aunts and cousins. I was now a full-fledged Aryan with two generations of Gentile forebears.

In this manner a number of Jews acquired the names and birth certificates of deceased Poles, with which they obtained authentic Polish identification cards. Such documents afforded substantial protection, but they were not wholly dependable, for the Germans, if suspicious, could check documents against municipal and church records.

Leonora Rozen and her mother Sarah Charlap Muller, who survived the war passing as Christians in Warsaw, obtained false identity documents issued by priests via their contacts in the Polish underground. (Leonora Rozen, “Survival in Warsaw,” The Ser-Charlap Family Newsletter volume 10, no. 1, March 1999.) When the “cleansing” of the Ghetto began, Mother and I were living in Warsaw under the cover of false identities. We had “good” false papers which were certificates of birth and christening, delivered by priests who were close to the Polish Underground network. They were issued by obliging civil servants in some other city in Poland and certified that the holders had been living in that place for many years. They were not easy to get and one needed time to have them made and delivered by the network. The underground organization also provided a “Kennkarte”, a sort of identity card printed as a real document and bearing authentic German seals. I still have two of those cards, my Mum’s and My Aunt Rita’s. So with these false papers I was known as Barbara Policzkowska and my mother was Anna Domanska [Domańska], born [née] Stolarczyk.

After leaving the ghetto in Warsaw Stefanie S. and her mother Dunka passed as Christians in Warsaw with the help of false documents they had obtained from a priest. For a time they lived with a relative of her father’s family who had converted to Catholicism and lived openly with her Polish husband. (Yehudi Lindeman, ed., Shards of Memory: Narratives of Holocaust Survival [Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger, 2007], pp.138–39.) Shortly before her father’s death, when Stefanie turned four, plans were made to get her out of the ghetto. Her mother bleached her already dark blond hair. She was tutored in Catholic prayers, and instructed that outside the ghetto she could “never talk about what goes on in the house [or] say the names of anybody,” or reveal information that might betray her Jewish identity, such as her grandfather having a beard. … The two of them remained together at the home of Adela, a relative from Stefanie’s father’s family. Adela was a Jewish woman who converted and married a Polish scientist. They lived in Zoliborz [Żoliborz], a suburb of Warsaw. Adela took very good care of Stefanie’s mother, Dunka, who was confined to bed with a bleeding ulcer. When Dunka recovered she got a job as an operating room nurse even though she did not have nurse’s training.

Stefanie and her mother had false documents that a priest had procured for them. These were the actual birth certificates of deceased people who were born at about the same time as Stefanie and her mother. As a result, they could not go by the same name. She remembers that her mother claimed Stefanie was her illegitimate child, named Maria. When Adela’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Krysia, was caught working for the underground, Stefanie and her mother fled from Adela’s home because they feared the Gestapo would search the house. … Upon returning to Warsaw, Stefanie hid in a villa with her mother, only three houses from Adela’s home. The gentile woman who owned the villa was hiding seventeen illegal Jews (Jews without Christian papers). … Two secret hiding places were constructed in the house in order to conceal the seventeen Jews in the event of a search.

One was a hole behind a water closet in the basement, which extended into a tunnel that went several houses down. The other was in a small bedroom on the second floor. There was a cabinet built into the wall with shelves that could be removed. From there, people could crawl into the eaves of the house.

Individual rescuers often turned to priests directly to obtain documents, or used intermediaries:

[1] Severin Kohn (now Gabriel), who passed as a Christian in Warsaw, obtained a birth certificate from a priest of the Church of the Holy Cross in Łódź, declaring him to be Władysław Gawroński. (Severin Gabriel, In the

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Jewish testimonies in the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, at Yale University Library, attest to priests providing false documents to Jews in various locatilities: Magnuszew near Warka (Henryk P. [Prajs] Holocaust Testimony [HVT–3171]); Rozwadów near Stalowa Wola (Pearl B. Holocaust Testimony [HVT– 2876]); Mińsk Mazowiecki (Irit R. Holocaust Testimony [HVT–1805]; Kurek, Your Life Is Worth Mine, pp.193–94); Mroczkowice near Rawa Mazowiecka (Emilia S. Holocaust Testimony [HVT–1907]); Lwów (Rita L. Holocaust Testimony [HVT–2256]); Stryj (Sabina G. Holocaust Testimony [HVT–2181]).

Rev. Stefan Ścibiorek, the assistant pastor of Osieck, issued a false birth certificate to Henryk (Froim Fiszel) Prajs from Góra Kalwaria near Warsaw, who received assistance from many villagers, often complete stranger.

(Testimony of Henryk Prajs, January 2005, Internet: http://www.centropa.org.) On 25th February 1941 they deported the Jews from Gora [Góra] Kalwaria to the ghetto in Warsaw. My sister was already there, she hadn’t come back to Gora Kalwaria with the outbreak of the war. Mom didn’t even think of escaping, and me neither, I wanted to go to the ghetto with my family. The neighbors would come over and say, ‘Listen, run away, go, you don’t look like a Jew, maybe you'll make it.’ I heard there were Jews in Magnuszew [town 25 km from Gora Kalwaria]—there was this sort of grapevine during the occupation—and that there are no deportations there. And so I basically ran away in the evening, after a talk with Mom. I don’t know what happened to my family. I lost contact with them on that day. They were gone without a trace. Only my brother came to me later on. Lots of people left the ghetto then, everyone tried not to surrender.

It’s twenty-something kilometers from Gora Kalwaria to Magnuszew, wintertime, so I stepped in a yard once in a while, knocked on the door, I asked, ‘Hello sir, open, please, I’m a Jew, I ran away, please, help me.’ If it was a good man— hhe'd let me in, if not—he'd say ‘Go away, go away!’ The Jews stayed in Magnuszew until May or June 1942. [The Magnuszew ghetto was liquidated in October 1942]. I didn’t know anyone there. I basically worked as a tailor, people came in, gave me something to sew, I did it, and it was enough to get by.

Two months before the deportations they created a ghetto, put everyone in, and later moved them to Kozienice [town ca.

20 km from Gora Kalwaria, 80 km from Warsaw]. In Kozienice they selected young men and took them to Chmielew [village 5 km from Magnuszew] to dig irrigation ditches. There was a labor camp for Jews. I was one of those transported there.

We stayed there until December [1942], and later came the deportation and we went back to Magnuszew. I already had many friends there at the time, among those whom I tailored for. On our way back from Chmielew a Polish friend, Janek Cwyl, pulled me out of the column while the policemen weren’t paying attention. He took me with him, he saved me.

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