«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Sister Ludwika took the beds, as many as she wanted, and from that time we became friends—she used to telephone me, and I her, so as not to lose touch with each other. … Irka, the Polish woman, was frightened because she had her own family. After all, the Germans killed entire Polish families for harboring Jews! … my wife went with Ruth to Kocowa [?], if only to stay there for two weeks. After staying in Kocowa, my wife wandered around with my daughter. Somehow we always managed to stay in contact. Then one day we made an arrangement. I sent a Pole I knew, Kobus, to bring my daughter. He couldn’t take my wife because there was too much risk involved.
Kobus took my daughter to his place in Otwock, and then she became ill. … She had to see a doctor. Since I had been a student at Warsaw University, I had many Polish doctors as friends. I asked a pediatrician, Stas Wieslawski [Staś Wiesławski], to help, He visited my daughter. … It was winter already. I made contact with Sister Ludwika, and as soon as Ruth got well, we gave her the child. It was a winter’s evening, cold and snowy. The doors of the orphanage were open and my wife said to Ruth: “Go inside; you’ll get some candy there.” Ruth went. We made an arrangement with Sister Ludwika that in case of trouble she would light a candle in the window.
If no light shone that would indicate that everything had gone alright. We froze outside for two hours, but no light came, so we left the orphanage.
We visited our daughter only twice. She was under the care of Sister Anna, a brave young nun. Later, when we were in hiding, our link with our daughter was the Polish woman I’ve already mentioned, Irka.
Sister Ludwika was very careful in her activities, which is why we felt safe having Ruth stay in the convent. We left Ruth with a letter, because that’s how it was done in those days. She also had an authentic [baptismal] certificate, with the name of Teresa Wysocka on it, which I got in Otwock from a priest I knew.
Provided with the letter and certificate, Ruth started to cry once she was inside the orphanage. The nuns came down to see what was happening, and then they talked about whether the child was Jewish and if so, whether they could put the other children in danger if they took her in. My daughter went up to the mother superior at that point, and the mother
superior reacted with these words:
“If the child has come to me, then I will share her fate.” Luckily, my daughter did not talk Yiddish or Hebrew; she only knew Polish and we only spoke Polish at home. Before we left for the convent, we had taught her what to say—that her mother had been taken by the Nazis to Germany, and that her name was Teresa Wysocka.
We gave Sister Ludwika carte blanche when we sent Ruth to the convent; she could do anything she wanted with the child for its safety, including baptizing it, for a little water would not be bad if it saved the child’s life. We also left the nuns a little money. They accepted the money, but it would have made no difference if we had not given it, for Ruth would have been accepted into the convent regardless.
153 We informed the Polish police commissioner in Otwock of the fact that we had given our child to the convent. He assured us that in case something happened and the child ended up at the police station, he would call an engineer living nearby, Szpakowski, and then his wife would take the child in as her own, so that our daughter would not fall into the hands of the Germans.
When Ruth was already in the convent, my wife and I went to Praga to hide. When the Germans were already losing the war, and the front was nearing Warsaw in 1944, Sister Ludwika managed to inform us that the Germans were moving the orphanage to the west and that she didn’t know what would be happening to them. So we sent our liaison, Irka, to pick up the girl, and after our daughter was with us. She didn’t have to hide anymore and no one suspected that she was Jewish.
Sister Ludwika Małkiewicz provided additional details of the rescue activities in an interview conducted in 1984.
(Ibid., pp.157–61.) When on October 10, 1940, the Germans kicked us out of the children’s home in Grabia [Grabie], near Torun [Toruń], and sent us to the General Government (to make room for the Hitlerjugend), the Social Welfare Dept. of Warsaw picked us up at the station in Warsaw and placed us with the Sisters of St. Teresa in Swidrze [Świder] on Mickiewicz St. The living space was too small for all of us, so we requested the mayor to let us have the Jewish boarding school in the neighborhood, which was empty since the Jewish population was already in a ghetto. By ourselves we painted the interior and created a chapel, and the mayor gave us the necessary furniture from that furniture that had been left behind by the previous boarders. I received desks from a Jewish school that had been closed in Otwock.
The owner of the boarding school, as we found out, was Jozef [Józef] Kaplon, a Jew, who was at the time in the ghetto in Otwock, about a kilometer away. We decided that since we were using his establishment, it was only proper to see if he needed food in the ghetto. I sought him out. It was 1941.
Kaplon was without any family and already very old and also ill. He was happy to see me and asked me to visit him regularly. He had something to eat, but every Sunday I brought him a warm dinner and a bit of this and that. Thus I became acquainted with Jews.
I always entered the ghetto under the barbed wire, for there was no entrance from the side of Swidrze. Except for Kaplon, the Jews looked at me with suspicion. But this didn’t last long. The ghetto police themselves proposed that when I would be going from Otwock to Swidzre, I should shorten my way by walking through the ghetto. With time they began to trust me completely, so much so that they gave me their savings for safe keeping, and, needing money, they came for it at night. Later I started going to the ghetto on Saturday, right after school lessons, to see how the Jews prayed and observed the Sabbath.
And that is the way I began my contact with Jews and how it came to be that I wound up helping both Jewish adults and children.
The decision to help Jews belonged solely to the mother superior of our house, Sister Gertruda Marciniak, while I was the person who carried out her instructions, with the stipulation that in case of immediate danger the decision rested with me.
Jewish children were brought in through the requests of hiding parents or Mr. Adamowicz, who worked for the Welfare Department of Warsaw at 72 Zlota [Złota] St.
The director of the department was Antoni Chacinski [Chaciński].
In our home there were several Jewish children. They came with fictitious names, some of which I don’t remember. I will
only tell you about those I do remember:
1) Alfred Karol (Leopold Blitzylberg, phonetically spelled), born in Baden-Baden. His mother was German, his father was a Jew. When the father was killed in the Warsaw ghetto, the mother escaped with Alfred to the Polish side, taking nothing with her. She begged for bread from some German soldiers but did not present herself to the German authorities in fear that they would take her child away to the ghetto. An Austrian woman, Marta Harf (likewise phonetically spelled) saw her on the street. Seeing a sick and teary-eyed woman in front of her, she decided to help. The mother was taken to a hospital, and Marta Harf took the child to her place. The mother died in the hospital, but before she died she asked Marta Harf to send the child to its family in Baden-Baden. The German authorities didn’t allow this, and the child was to return to the ghetto.
Marta, a decent human being, looked around everywhere to save the child’s life. Finally, Sister Gertruda sent me to Marta. Once there, after examining the situation, I was to decide whether to take the child back with me or not.
There was a fear, which Director Chacinski expressed, that this was a ruse on the part of the Germans, since Marta had assured the Welfare Department that the child was of pure German blood, in the face of which the question became why send the child to a Polish home for children? If I didn’t take the child, it would have to go to the ghetto. So I took this seven-year-old boy to our home in Swidrze. This was in 1941. The boy remained with us to the end of the war.
2) Daniel Lancberg (phonetically spelled). In 1941 his parents begged us to take him. At their request the child was baptized and received the baptismal name of Wojciech. The child was barely three. The boy’s father died in the Otwock ghetto; the mother survived the war and became baptized.
Daniel was a very thin child; he looked half-starved. He constantly had to eat, so he would go by himself to the kitchen to get a bite there. One day he got on top of a table to take a look out the window. Two German soldiers who were passing by saw him and rushed to the kitchen very angry and accusing us of hiding Jews. I ran to Mother Superior Getruda Marciniak, who knew German quite well. (In those days the populace in the General Government did not know German.)
The mother superior entered the kitchen, and with a smile on her face, said:
“How can you possibly think that we have Jews here?” Daniel, who was called Wojciech at out convent, did not understand what was being said, and at the sight of these faces looking at him with such anger, he went into a panic, crying and cuddling to the mother superior, who took him by the
hand and said to him in Polish and to the soldiers in German:
“So you are the one who is supposed to be a Jew? What a joke! Don’t cry, Wojciech; see how nicely these gentlemen are dressed and how good they are. They like children a lot—won’t you like them?” The boy, though he was still crying, extended his hands out to one of the Germans so that he could hug him. The soldiers were speechless. The mother superior, ignoring their confusion, asked them if they wanted tea and something to eat, all the while acting very calmly and smiling. The Germans were so dumbfounded that all they wanted to do was to leave our convent as quickly as possible. And yet it would have been very easy for them to see if Daniel was circumcised. Apparently they thought our mother superior was German.
3) Ruth Noy, the daughter of Max and Roza [Róża] Noy. She was accepted to our home on Swiderski [Świderska] St. in Otwock in November 1942, at the request of her parents, who were hiding after the liquidation of the ghetto there. With the agreement of the convent I made out a fictitious birth certificate for her under the name Teresa Wysocka.
We arranged the “abandonment” of the child: Without being seen, the mother left the child in the courtyard in the evening. The little girl began to cry, at the sound of which the nuns, and the personnel of the convent, came rushing up, and everyone saw the abandoned child. The girl had a small pouch about her neck, and inside was her fictitious certificate and a letter requesting us to keep the girl for a short time. The mother wrote in the letter that her husband had been taken to Germany to work and that she herself was spending a lot of time trying to make a living and didn’t have a place to keep Teresa. In her difficult situation she counted on the mercy of the nuns. Of course, the mother signed her name as Wysocka.
The child was in our home for almost two years. Her parents saved themselves, hiding in Warsaw on Pelpinski [Pelpińska] St. After the war they wanted to give whatever money they had left to the convent for saving their child. The mother superior refused to take the money, so they offered it to me, and I likewise refused to take it.
4) Salome Rybak. In 1941 or 1942, I don’t remember exactly, thirteen-year-old Salome (I don’t know if that was her real name) was hiding under the stairs in the empty Jewish boarding school in Swidrze. At night she used to come to our children’s home on 1 Mickiewicz St. and take from a barrel before our building the remnants of food left over left as fodder for pigs. Caught in the act, Salome was placed by us in our farm building and given a place to sleep and something to eat. When winter came, we took her in with the group of children in the children’s home where, unfortunately, she could only remain for a few months. One of the wards, the son of an [sic] Ukrainian, wanted to tell the Germans about her.
Here, once again, Mr. Adamowicz helped out and found another children’s home for her, this one run by the nuns in Starowce [Starówka, Warsaw’s Old Town]. I took her there myself, though I’ve forgotten the name of the street.
Her Semitic features gave her away. To take her to Warsaw, I bandaged her entire head, leaving just an opening for one eye. I don’t know what happened to her afterward.
All the children that were hiding with us were of the Hebraic religion. The only one who was baptized was, as I have already mentioned, Lancberg, and this was done at the request of his parents.
My attitude toward baptizing Jewish children was based on canonical law, which states that in regard to the baptism of children, one should get the approval of both or one of their parents. Furthermore, the baptized child should have a Catholic upbringing. There was no such certainty with the Jewish children we had because their parents could survive the war and bring them up in the Jewish religion.