«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
Unable to help in any way at the local level, Mama this time set out for Warsaw to the Ministry of Religions. She told them everything about herself and about what Father Schubert had done for us and explained the circumstances of his release from Dachau. He was soon released from this second prison but was not allowed to return to his parish. He took over the parish in Godula, a district of Ruda Śląska. Grateful to us, he visited us nearly every month for many years. He passed away already a dozen years or so ago.
Open displays of solidarity with Jews by priests in Warsaw and in its environs of Kraków were recorded by Janina Bauman, who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto with her mother and hid on the Aryan side until they were forced to abandon Warsaw after the failed uprising of 1944. Along with other refugees, both Poles and Jews concealed among them, they were scattered in villages throughout the German zone. (Janina Bauman, Winter in the Morning: A Young Girl’s Life in the Warsaw Ghetto and Beyond, 1939–1945 [London: Virago Press, 1986], pp.145 and 180.) One time Staś, who was making desperate efforts to help them, had to abandon them in a church [in Warsaw], while he rushed off to find a friend who, he hoped, might take them to her flat. The friend could not be found at that moment, so Mother and Sophie [the author’s sister] had to stay in the church for many hours. They were wearing their usual disguises and pretended to be praying all that time. The priest noticed them and took a deep interest in the two miserable figures. He must have guessed who they were and why they kept praying so keenly. When towards evening most of the congregation had left, he then brought them food and drink which they badly needed. He also found a few words of Christian consolation for them. Soon after Staś arrived with good news and took Mother and Sophie to his old friend Vala. … … The Mass [in the village church of Zielonki near Kraków] continued, the young priest [Rev. Jan Pietrzyk] knelt and 64 Rev. Józef Szubert’s biography does not coincide entirely with the details provided in this account. Rev. Szubert was arrested by the Germans in May 1940 and sent to Dachau, and then to Mauthausen. After his release in November 1940, he resided in a building belonging to Caritas, a charitable organization, in Katowice. In 1947, he was transferred to Godula, a suburb of Ruda Śląska. He was imprisoned by the Communist authorities in 1955–1956. He died in 1973.
Franciszek Orzechowski from Dobczyce near Kraków, identified as a priest by Yad Vashem historian Mordecai Paldiel,65 was recognized as a Righteous Gentile for his rescue activities. He saved ten members of the Gletzer (Glecer) and Lipski families by moving them from one place to another, including assisting them to escape to Hungary. He had previously provided them with food and medicine while they were in the Kraków ghetto.
Orzechowski’s help was voluntary and without any compensation. The following account is found in Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, at page 566.
The members of the Glecer family, who fled from Cracow [Kraków] in 1941 to the nearby town of Dobczyce, knew Franciszek Orzechowski after having once rented an apartment from his uncle. Orzechowski was a young man who inspired their trust and soon became their close friend and confidant. After restrictions were imposed on Jewish travel, Orzechowski became the go-between for the Jewish family. Without asking for or receiving anything in return, he carried out various errands for them, such as buying food and medicine and getting doctors for them when members of the family fell ill. The Glecer family was eventually forced to reenter the Cracow ghetto and they then renewed their contact with Orzechowski. [On one occasion, Orzechowski helped smuggle a child of Rena Glecer’s family out of the ghetto.] In March 1943, during the liquidation of the ghetto, Rena Glecer and her mother escaped and Orzechowski found them a place to hide. In the summer of that year, Orzechowski made contact with a man who smuggled people across the border and he took Glecer and her mother into Slovakia, from where they made their way to Hungary and Romania and were saved.
After the war, Glecer and her mother emigrated to Belgium, from where they made contact with Orzechowski.
A Jewish boy from Kraków was one of several Jews smuggled out of Poland into Slovakia and then Hungary.
After his parents had been seized by the Gestapo, the boy was smuggled out of the ghetto by nuns and sheltered in a convent. (Testimony of Ewa S. (Stapp), September 2005, Internet: http:www.centropa.org.) We reached the border. The guide shows us where the border is. We can see the Germans, we can see the dogs, and the lights. The guide shows us that we will cross between two posts and not to worry, because they know when the guards make their rounds. And indeed, just as they said, we crossed to the Slovakian side. Slovakian guides would come to pick us up and take us to the Hungarian border, to the town called Mikulasz [Mikuláš]. So we’re waiting for the Slovak guides and they never show up! So, to make things more exciting, for we have to have fun, we cross back to the Polish side. The Polish guides put us in a hay-loft which belongs to them. Apart from the two of us, there is a little boy, four people from the Kaczmarek family, an engineer from Lwow [Lwów] who escaped from the Yanovski [Janowska] camp and a woman from Warsaw, Hanka. Except for the Kaczmarek family, all of us are Jewish.
We sit there quietly. We can see the Germans and the dogs, we can hear German and there we are, not farther from the Germans than this balcony is form us [several meters]. We stay there for one day. Next day at night we start again. We walk for a long time, for the distance between Chabowka [Chabówka] and the border is about 20 kilometers.
We are in the care of two Slovak guides. They tell us that we will spend the night at their place and the next day they will take us to the train, buy us tickets and go to Mikulasz with us where the Hungarian guides will take over. The little boy spoke beautiful Polish. It was easy to tell he was an intelligent child. Of course, it was a Jewish child. He was from Cracow. He must have been from the family of the intelligentsia, for he spoke beautiful French, and nice German and Hebrew. He told us stories and sang French songs. We became very good friends. He was wearing a beret and a chain around his neck with a clover. I said, ‘You know, you’re inside, and one does not wear a hat inside.' And he says, ‘I won’t take it off!' I say, ‘Do take it off, for the lady of the house will feel offended.' So he took off his beret and it turned out his hair was red! That's why he kept his hat on!
We felt very close to this little boy. He told us his grandparents sent for him from Switzerland. His parents must have belonged to some Jewish organization. The Gestapo came, together with the Jewish police and they found weapons. They took the parents away, but the Gestapo man left the boy behind. Later he was at a convent; the nuns got him out of the ghetto.
Mordecai Paldiel, Churches and the Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans, and Reconciliation (Jersey City, New Jersey:
Ktav Publishing House, 2006), p.224.
176 There were rich Jews in Slovakia. I decided to get through to a Jew to ask if I could wash up the boy and ask for some clothes for him, for he didn’t have anything! I said, ‘Excuse me, Mister, we have this child with us, who’s been sent for by his grandparents. His grandparents paid for him and sent a man to Cracow. Please, help us take care of this child. Help me into a house so that the little one could wash up. Maybe you could get him some chocolate or something proper to eat, or maybe you have some old clothes? He only has what he’s wearing.' But they didn’t help. Until today, I can’t understand why. Maybe because they had not yet been beaten and kicked themselves.
We came up to a booth on the border. The guide said goodbye to us. There were two Hungarians in the booth who said they will take us to Koszyce [Košice]. … Next day they took us to the local authorities in Koszyce. We walked in and there were soldiers there. They sent in two gendarmes to watch us. Finally, they called in Karol. Karol still had the papers to the name of Marian Warunek. I didn’t show my papers. They told him not to worry, that they won’t send us back to Poland and that we’ll stay and go to Budapest.
It must have been Saturday. Our room was on the ground floor and I was sitting at the window, looking out.
I said, ‘Karol, look, they are making a movie!' There were three Jews walking with a little boy; such as I’ve never seen in Lwow:
Jews wearing gabardine, fur caps, white stockings, patent leather shoes, and yellow stars, for the Hungarians wore yellow stars. I said, ‘They must be making a film here.' For can you imagine Jews like that walking on the streets of Hungary in 1943 as real people?! But it turned out those were real Jews, to whom nothing happened. It was such a shock for me. I though, ‘Where on earth am I?' Stanley Bors was sheltered in Grodzisk, outside Warsaw, in the home of his wife’s uncle, who was married to a Polish woman. He and his family members passed as Poles with the assistance of a priest. (Sylvia Rothchild, ed., Voices from the Holocaust [New York: New American Library, 1981], pp.224–25.) We ran away to my wife’s other uncle, the one who was married to a gentile woman. They lived in Grodzisk, another suburb of Warsaw. We were able to stay with them till the end of the war. The family consisted of the uncle, his wife and his young daughter. We were six people in a two-bedroom house. All our relatives were gambling with their lives by helping us. We had false birth certificates and passports obtained by the colonel [a member of the Polish underground] through his contacts in city hall, but any priest would know we were Jews from our lack of knowledge about the customs and traditions of the Catholic religion. The priest in that neighborhood didn’t report us. He was a good man and didn’t want to cooperate with the Germans. … My wife’s uncle was a teacher in his seventies. His wife was about the same age. They were married a long time and had lived in Lodz [Łódź]. When Hitler came they came back to Grodzisk, where his wife’s family lived. Everybody knew my uncle was Jewish but no one reported him to the Gestapo.
A Jewish woman identified as S.F. worked on a labour gang composed of Poles and Jews in the fields of a manor near Warsaw requisitioned by the Germans. She was separated from the group just prior to the outbreak of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, when the Jewish farm labourers were deported by the Gestapo. She ran to the manor of a Polish woman who had sheltered her earlier. After a narrow escape during a raid on the manor, she turned to a priest, Rev. Edward Wojtczak, the chaplain at a nearby convent, who was known as a “friend to the Jews.” He provided her with temporary shelter at the convent before placing the Jewish woman with his sister in Warsaw, who also took in a Jewish child, and then with a doctor. Father Wojtczak also supplied her with false identity documents and found her employment. The story is recorded in Isaiah Trunk, Jewish Responses to Nazi Persecution: Collective and Individual Behavior in Extremis (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), at pages 135– 38.
The Gestapo squad called to the lord of the manor to come out. Fijalkowski [Fijałkowski] appeared and they pounced on him like wolves, slapping him and screaming: “Juden seinen bei dir!” It was no use when he protested that the German authorities had given permission. They beat him up so bad all his teeth came flying out of his mouth. Next, they ordered all the Jews to come out with their hands up. They were all marched off to a waiting truck and beaten and humiliated without mercy. I ran straight into Lady Fijalkowska’s chamber, crying to her that I was finished. She led me down into the cellar and told me to wait there until they’d gone. But a Polish policeman broke into the house … “I was told there’s a Jewess in here!” The lady couldn’t talk him out of it. He ran down to the cellar and found me right away. He dragged me up to the ground floor. I kept crying and kissing his hands: “Tell them no one’s here! Give me a second and I’ll be far away!” He did. He must have been an angel of some kind. He let go of me and in an instant, I flew through the back door and out of 177 the house. When the truck was gone, I went back into the lady’s chamber. She wouldn’t let me stay. She herself was still trembling from what had just happened. I knew I had to go now. I left the estate and walked through an open ditch by the side of the road. I stayed down there till morning.
As the sun was coming up, I fell into a panic. I knew no way of escaping my horrid fate. I went back to Lady Fijalkowska again. I clung to her, crying and pleading for her to save me. Her answer was telling me there was no reason to panic—I didn’t look “too much” like a Jew. She talked me into going to the nearby monastery and asking for sanctuary from the father, Edward Wojtczak. He was supposed to be a kind man and a friend to the Jews. I went. What else could I do? A sister answered my ring and asked what it was I wanted. I told her I had to see the father. She didn’t say anything—just looked me up and down as if trying to figure out who I was. She told me to wait. A long time passed. The father himself came out to see me. A tall man, gray-haired—he looked about sixty—with a kind face. I started crying and said I was a Jewish daughter. I took out my purse with the little money I had left and some jewelry I always carried with me for whenever I had to buy my way out of getting killed. I told him I would give it all away to the sick people in his infirmary.
The priest looked at me with understanding and said: “I don’t need it. You might have to use it someday. Where will you go now? It’s night already.” He took me inside the monastery, I felt lost in the darkness. There were only small candles flickering over the heads of the marble and bronze icons. It was all horrifying. I sank quickly into a sleep.