«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
… they took him and his wife to Treblinka. They were ordered to throw all their valuables, jewellery, dollars onto a sheet— death if you didn’t. Everyone did, but Grandpa thought to himself, they’ll kill my anyway, but what if I survive? So he bent by a Pole named Strychalski, who continued to provide them with necessities while they were living in the forest. See Leibel and Efraim Tchapowicz, “Hiding,” in in A. Shamri and Sh. Soroka, eds., Sefer Kaluszyn: Geheylikt der khorev gevorener kehile (Tel Aviv: Former
Residents of Kaluszyn in Israel, 1961), 397ff., translated as The Memorial Book of Kaluszyn, Internet:
http://jewishgen.org/Yizkor/kaluszyn/Kaluszyn.html. Abraham Kolski escaped from Treblinka with nine other friends during the uprising on August 2, 1943; they were hidden in a cellar of a home near the camp for the remainder of the war. See the oral history interview with Abraham Kolski, by Linda Gordon Kuzmack, March 29, 1990, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. In spite of the death penalty for the slightest assistance to Jews, local Polish peasants helped Samuel Willenberg on no less than nine separate occasions in the first days after his escape from Treblinka. Willenberg stresses the risks involved in assisting Jews. When a group of Jews broke out of Treblinka, the Germans mobilized their forces (including the Ukrainian camp guards) and conducted a thorough search of the entire area, setting up checkpoints on the roads and combing nearby villages and searching villagers’ homes. See Samuel Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka (Oxford: Basil Blackwell in association with the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, 1989), pp.25, 143–
48. The most significant impediment was the fear of German retaliation. A Jew who had escaped from Treblinka and managed to return to Warsaw recalled: “The peasants near Treblinka didn’t want to shelter me even for just one night. They happily gave me food and even money, but they wouldn’t hear of my spending the night, because the Ukrainians who were permanently stationed in Treblinka often showed up … The local peasants told of things that were unbelievable but unfortunately true. … Everyone I talked to near Treblinka spoke of nothing else. They all told the same thing, in horror. The ones closer to Warsaw let me stay the night, but there was no question of staying there permanently.” Michał Grynberg, ed., Words To Outlive Us: Voices From the Warsaw Ghetto (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2002), p.210. The brothers Sandor and Shalom Spector jumped out of two separate trains headed for Treblinka and both of them survived with the help of friendly Poles. See Sandor Spector, “I Jumped From the Death Trains,” in Yerachmiel Moorstein, ed., Zelva Memorial Book (Malwah, New Jersey: Jacob Solomon Berger, 1992), pp.81–82. According to three separate testimonies by Jewish escapees from the death camps of Treblinka and Sobibór, they “walked about the villages” where they were “known to everybody,” including the farm-hands and school children, without being denounced. See Teresa Prekerowa, “Stosunek ludności polskiej do żydowskich uciekinierów z obozów zagłady w Treblince, Sobiborze i Bełżcu w świetle relacji żydowskich i polskich,” Biuletyn Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu—Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, vol. 35 (1993), p.108. For additional accounts of Jews who escaped from Treblinka, or trains headed there, and who returned safely to their homes with the aid of random Poles along the
way, see: account of David Wolf in Entertainment and Ball Given by the United Wisoko-Litowsker and Woltchiner Relief, Internet:
http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Vysokoye/Vysokoye.html, translation of Samuel Levine and Morris Gervitz, eds., Yisker zhurnal gevidmet diumgekumene fun Visoka un Voltshin (New York: United Wisoko-Litowsker and Woltchiner Relief, 1948); Feivel Wolf, “After the Departure from Treblinka,” in Memorial Book of Krynki, Internet: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Krynki/Krynki.html, translation of D. Rabin, ed., Pinkas Krynki (Tel Aviv: Former Residents of Krynki in Israel and the Diaspora, 1970), p.290; Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing To Mass Murder (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), pp.149–56; Alexander Donat, ed., The Death Camp at Treblinka: A Documentary (New York: Holocaust Library, 1979), pp.135, 142, 248–89 (one of the Poles who helped was a member of a rightist-nationalist organization); Isaiah Trunk, Jewish Responses to Nazi Persecution: Collective and Individual Behavior in Extremis (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), pp.100, 123; Benjamin Mandelkern, with Mark Czarnecki, Escape from the Nazis (Toronto: James Lorimer, 1988), pp.59, 66–67, 73–75; Michał Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1993), pp.438–39, 481; Richard Glazer, Trap With a Green Fence: Survival in Treblinka (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1995), pp.149–53 (the author passed through a long series of localities and when he was finally caught it was not by a Pole but by a Volksdeutsche); Luba Wrobel Goldberg, A Sparkle of Hope: An Autobiography (Melbourne: n.p., 1998), p.98; Alina Bacall-Zwirn and Jared Stark, No Common Place: The Holocaust Testimony of Alina Bacall-Zwirn (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), pp.32–35; Eddi Weinstein, Quenched Steel: The Story of an Escape from Treblinka (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2002); Irene Shapiro, Revisiting the Shadows: Memoirs from War-torn Poland to the Statue of Liberty (Elk River, Minnesota: DeForest Press, 2004), pp.189–90; Israel Gutman and Sara Bender, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2004), vol. 4: Poland, Part 1, pp.246, 348, 362–63, 364, 366–65, 384, and vol. 5: Poland, Part 2, p.703; Michael Maik, Deliverance: The Diary of Michael Maik. A True Story (Kedumim, Israel: Keterpress Enterprises, 2004), p.87; Halina Grubowska, Haneczko, musisz przeżyć (Montreal: Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation, 2007), pp.73–74; Israel Cymlich and Oscar Strawczynski, Escaping Hell in Treblinka (New York and Jerusalem: Yad Vashem and The Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project, 2007), p.188; Samuel D. Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes
Archive (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007), p.310; Krzysztof Czubaszek, Żydzi z Łukowa i okolic (Warsaw:
Danmar, 2008), pp.203, 206, 251; Joseph S. Kutrzeba, The Contract: A Life for a Life (New York: iUniverse, 2009), pp.50ff.
200 down as though he were throwing, and picked things up again and again. Then, they selected several stronger men, put them back in the train, and Grandpa was one of the chose. As they rode at night, they managed to push out the bars of the window. The German shot, but missed him. Cut and bruised, he dragged himself to a settlement where he saw a church.
The priest gave him clothes and money for the train, because he couldn’t pay in dollars. When he got back to Warsaw, his friends said: “We’ll introduce you to Jędrek Korczak of the HA [Home Army] who is hiding in the Ujazdów [military] hospital.” In this way, Grandpa became one of General Horodyński’s charges. [Horodyński was head of the surgical department—Ed.] … the colonel on the officer’s ward is a Jew, a pharmacist who’d studied along with Horodyński. And the major is also a Jew, a music teacher. And the quiet, devout soldier with the bamboo walking-stick who wears a crucifix on top of his pajamas. And that rheumatic lady who claims that we’re suited to each other, Grandpa knew her well in Kraków. Even poor Lieutenant Doliński had a Jewish mother.
Priests were known to have stood up to malfeasants who harassed and robbed Jewish fugitives. (Gutman and Krakowski, Unequal Victims, 245, based on on Czyżew Memorial Book.) Jentel Kita recounts the following incident which occurred in the village of Lachow [Perki Lachy?], Wysokie Mazowieckie county. Several villagers assaulted a rather well-dressed woman, trying to strip her of her clothes. A priest suddenly appeared, approaching the attackers and asking them why they were harassing a lone woman. They told him that she was a Jewess who had jumped out of a Treblinka-destined train. Upon hearing that, the priest demanded that they leave her alone: he told them that she had suffered enough. The victim of the assault too advantage of his intercession and of the ensuing argument to withdraw speedily. Then the priest also walked swiftly away.
Joseph S. Kutrzeba, then known as Arie Fajwiszys, recalled the assistance he received from several priests and a bishop in the Łomża area. In particular, Rev. Stanisław Falkowski, who was awarded by Yad Vashem, played a key role in the rescue of this 14-year-old boy from the Warsaw ghetto who had jumped off a train headed for Treblinka. After wandering in the countryside for several months, hiding in forests, fields and barns, the boy asked farmers to give him work and shelter. In Hodyszewo, he turned to a priest, Rev. Józef Perkowski, to whom he disclosed his identity. The priest referred him to Rev. Falkowski, a young vicar who was posted in the off-thebeaten-track village of Piekuty Nowe, on whose door he knocked in the dead of the night. Rev. Falkowski gave him a warm reception and tended to his wounds. He arranged a hiding place in his courtyard near the church, where the boy stayed for four months. Later he arranged for the boy to stay with several Polish farmers in the area. The pastor, Rev. Roch Modzelewski, was aware of the boy’s true identity and helped in the rescue all along.
To allay suspicions, Rev. Falkowski arranged for Aryan papers under a new identity, which enabled the boy to register as a volunteer for work in Germany. Even there, while working in a factory, Rev. Falkowski kept in touch with the boy the whole time, writing him letters to keep up his spirits and sending him food parcels. Rev.
Falkowski also helped other Jews, which the boy was not aware of at the time. Joseph Kutrzeba penned the following statement, which is the editor’s possession, in May 1994. (See also Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 4: Poland, Part 1, pp.211–12; Joseph S. Kutrzeba, The Contract: A Life for a Life [New York: iUniverse, 2009], pp.59– 60, 80–164, 197–98, 203, 207, 217–18.) During the first days of September 1942, at the age of 14, I jumped out of a moving train destined for Treblinka, through an opening (window) of a cattle car loaded to capacity with Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Wandering over fields, forests and villages, at first in the vicinity of Wołomin, and later of Zambrów, I found myself, in late November, in the area of Hodyszewo (at the time district Łomża).
Throughout my wandering, the peasants for the most part were amenable to put me up for the night and to feed me— some either suspecting my origins or pressing me to admit it.
I am the son of the well-known musician, composer, professor and conductor, Izrael Fajwiszys, and of Malka Hakman, murdered by the German Nazis together with my sister Rela.
Generally, I was aiming to reach the forests of Lublin as I’d heard within the resistance movement in the Warsaw Ghetto, Hashomer Hatzair, to which I belonged (and whose leader was Mordechai Anielewicz) that a Jewish partisan unit of that movement was being formed there. The peasants were afraid to shelter me longer than overnight since an officially announced death penalty had been decreed by the German occupiers for any assistance rendered to Jewish escapees.
Several times I was advised to seek out “a priest” who, as the peasants believed, could baptize me and thus to “save” me. While still in the area of Wołomin, I looked up a pastor (whose name I don’t remember). He had handed me a prayer book advising me to somehow take care of myself and to learn the basic prayers etc., and to look him up again after I have 201 mastered the prayers. Then “we’ll see,” he said. Because, as he stated, he was afraid to shelter me. I never saw him again.
But at the end of November 1942, when heavy snow covered the ground, I followed the advice of a peasant who suggested that I look up, as it turned out, the parish priest (canon) Józef Perkowski in the church at Hodyszewo (housing the Miraculous Image of the Virgin Mary), the post-war rector of the Catholic Seminary in Łomża, with whom I corresponded after the war. Rev. Perkowski, having fed me, suggested that I repair at night, over heavy snow, to find a young vicar, Rev. Stanisław Falkowski, in the village of Piekuty Nowe, near Szepietowo.
Rev. Perkowski maintained that German gendarmes were constantly milling about in Hodyszewo and thus it would be difficult for him to hide or shelter me. However, as he put it, Piekuty Nowe was a small village, out of the way (as it turned out, there was also a gendarmerie post there), and that Rev. Falkowski was a “young idealist” who might agree to help me.
Father Falkowski opened the door for me on a dark evening, asking me to come into his one-room dwelling unit where, as a young vicar, he’d found a locum with a family, since the parish house in Piekuty Nowe had been requisitioned by the Germans, and the parish priest, Father Roch Modzelewski, had had to move into the house of the organist.
At first, Father Falkowski had put me up in his only room where I slept on the sofa. I had been covered with lice and with sores over my body. Father Falkowski fed me, arranged to clean me up, boiled my clothes, somehow coming up with an ointment for my sores. At the same time, we held many conversations evenings, rising at five in the morning to attend dawn Mass during Advent (December 1942).
From the start, Father Falkowski’s superior, pastor Modzelewski, had been fully taken into confidence (I often visited him—a short walk) and fully cooperated in assisting me. Both priests resolved that it was most important that I learn the catechism and the basic Catholic teachings— that is because that, if they would eventually attempt to place me with a peasant as a “working hand,” or to tend the cows—due to my “good” appearance and Polish speech—I would not give myself away with regard to my origins.