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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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[33] Olga Zawadzka, originally from Lwow [Lwów], moved to the village of Czuszow [Czuszów], Kielce district, after her marriage. Between the years 1925 and 1930, she had been a student in Jan Kazimierz University in Lwow, where she had befriended a Jewish woman named Frida Kohn, who was a mathematics student. After Olga left Lwow, the two friends lost contact. When the Germans took over Lwow, a mutual friend turned to Olga and asked her if she would hide Fela in her home. Olga, bearing in mind the fact that Fela was a Jew, told her warmheartedly that Fela would be most welcome. Fela arrived in Czuszow and Olga, with the help of friends and a priest, obtained a false birth certificate and Kennkarte for her made out in the name of Maria Zajaczkowska [Zajączkowska]. Fela asked Olga to help a friend of hers, Klara Nachtgaist, who was spending entire days in churches, too frightened to leave. Olga welcomed her into her home as well. Klara already had Aryan papers made out in the name of Julia Nahorayska. In the summer of 1942, Olga went to Lwow again, where she agreed to bring back Nina Drucker (later Noe Levine), the seven-year-old daughter of the director of the Lwow ghetto hospital, Dr. Herman Drucker, to Czuszow. Olga took Nina, who had a birth certificate in the name of Janina Witeszczak, into her home. Whenever the need arose, the child was either put up in the Sisters of St. Urszula [Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union] boarding school in Cracow or the Sisters of the Holy Ghost [Canon Sisters of the Holy Spirit de Saxia] boarding school in Busko [Busko-Zdrój]. Olga represented the fugitive child as a daughter of relatives who had died during the war.

[34] Henryk Zielonka was a tailor and ran an underwear factory in Czestochowa [Częstochowa]. When he married Getruda he was already a widower and had two sons from his previous marriage. In the summer of 1943, Henryk’s son brought home a five-year-old Jewish girl named Chana (later Chana Batista). Chana was born on the outskirts of Czestochowa, in Rakow [Raków]. On June 16, 1943, Chana’s mother had taken her to Czestochowa and gave her a scrap of paper with an address written on it. Chana was told that at the said address she would find a woman who would help her. Since then she never saw her mother again. A passerby directed Chana, who was not able to read at the time, to the address, where she waited a few hours for the woman whom her mother had told her about. The woman wrote her a new note and took the girl to a church. She told her to wait for the priest and quickly disappeared herself. After mass, Chana turned to the priest and showed him the note. The priest said that he could not help her. He called in a boy and a girl and asked them to take Chana to an old age home run by nuns. In front of the home there was a big courtyard; on the bench sat a few people. They started asking Chana questions to see if she knew how to pray. Suddenly she noticed the boy coming down the stairs; it was Henryk Zielonka’s son. “Aren’t you ashamed to tire this girl out with questions?” he asked. He took Chana by the arm and escorted her to his parents’ house. After a time, Henryk managed to get documents for Chana “proving” that she was his niece. … “Shortly afterwards they told me to call them ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ … I was a difficult child, I almost didn’t speak, I didn’t smile, and in addition I didn’t want to eat. My poor mother did what she could to make sure that I would eat something. …” After the war, Chana started school, finished her studies, and began working. When her adoptive parents died, she … discovered that her mother was murdered by the Germans.

Nuns throughout Poland took up the call to shelter Jews, especially children, in their convents, orphanages, and boarding schools. Many of these benefactors remain anonymous, as the following testimonies gathered by Yad Vashem illustrate. (Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volumes 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, pp.127, 144, 148, 214, 215, 332, 345–56, 358, 370, 404–405, 489, 502, 507, 511–12; Part 2, pp.545–46, 713, 777–78, 808, 863, 886, 923, 946.) [1] In 1942, Krystyna Lew escaped from the Warsaw ghetto together with her eight-year-old daughter, Beata; her son, Marek; and her sister, Helena Pocimak. Armed with Aryan papers, which they had obtained from a Polish acquaintance, the fugitives appealed for help to Helena Byszewska, her sisters Jadwiga Gostkiewicz and Maria Szulinska [Szulińska], and Wiktoria Kolbinska [Kolbińska]. Before the war, these four women had maintained a business relationship with the Lew family, which in the course of time had evolved into genuine friendship. When they learned of the distress of their Jewish friends, the women immediately undertook to help them. Helena took Marek into her apartment, and subsequently found refuge for Krystyna and her daughter as well as a hideout elsewhere for Helena Pocimak. The women set up a joint fund, from which 150 zlotys [zloty] were allocated monthly to Krystyna and Helena Byszewska. In due course, the janitor’s daughter began to suspect that Beata was Jewish, and fearing denunciation Helena Byszewska decided to transfer her to a

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[2] One day in the autumn of 1942, two men approached Janina Choromanska [Choromańska] in Warsaw, representing themselves as Poles who were interested in renting a room. Although they had Aryan papers, Choromanska realized that they were Jewish refugees and, stirred by their plight, invited them to stay with her. Shamai Zylberman and Jakub Gurfein took up her offer and stayed with her for several months, during which time Choromanska looked after them and helped them with their preparations for crossing the border into Hungary. Before they left, the fugitives passed on her address to Meir Gliksman and Tuvya Firer, whom Choromanska also sheltered in her home. Gliksman later also crossed the border into Hungary. When Firer informed Choromanska that his niece, who was hiding in a convent near Cracow, was in danger, Choromanska, in a heroic operation, traveled to the convent and brought her back with her. Uncle and niece stayed in her apartment in Warsaw for several months. After the war, Zylberman, Gurfein, and Gliksman immigrated to Israel. Tuvya and his niece perished in unknown circumstances.

[3] Early on in the occupation, Romualda and Feliks Ciesielski, who lived in Bydgoszcz with their nine-year-old son, were deported to Cracow, where they were assigned a shop and apartment that had been confiscated from their Jewish owners.

Although they had no say in the matter, the Ciesielskis felt sorry for the Jews and decided they would do all they could to help them. In addition to distributing food and clothing among needy Jews, the Ciesielskis let their shop be used as a temporary shelter for Jews until they found a more permanent hiding place. Among the Jews helped by the Ciesielskis were Dr. Edmund Fiszler and his wife, Leonora, who stayed with them for several weeks. The four members of the Horowicz family also found temporary shelter with the Ciesielskis. At Romualda’s suggestion, the Horowiczes’ daughter, Zofia, was hidden in a convent. In 1942, the Gestapo, alerted by informers, arrested the Ciesielskis. Romualda was interrogated, tortured, and sent to Auschwitz, where she continued helping Jewish prisoners. Her husband was interned in the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he perished.

[4] In early 1943, Lea Russak and her relative, Aron Moszkowicz, left their hiding place in the Carpathian Mountains and moved to Otwock near Warsaw. Equipped with forged papers, the two turned up on the Fiejkas’ doorstep, asking to rent a room in their house. Helena and Boleslaw [Bolesław] Fiejka, realizing they were Jewish, agreed to hide them in their home against payment, which was willingly provided. The Fiejkas prepared a well-camouflaged shelter for the Jewish refugees under the floor of Fiejka’s carpentry shop. In time, the Grynszpans and their ten-year-old daughter joined them.

Despite the danger, Helena Fiejka looked after the five Jewish refugees, cooked for them, washed their clothes, and removed their bodily wastes, even after they were no longer able to pay. One day, however, Boleslaw Fiejka ordered the refugees out. After days and nights of wandering through villages and fields without finding shelter, Russak and Moszkowicz, in desperation, returned to the Fiejkas. This time, Helena managed to persuade her husband, Boleslaw, to let the Jewish refugees stay. The three Grynszpans also returned to the Fiejkas’ home and stayed there until they were liberated. While at the Fiejkas, Russak fell ill and required medical attention. She was persuaded by Sister Teresa, a nun, to leave her hiding place and move in with relatives of Sister Teresa who lived in the town of Piastow [Piastów], near Warsaw. Russak stayed in Piastow until the area was liberated in January 1945 and after the war emigrated to Israel, while the Grynszpans moved to Canada. After the liberation, Moszkowicz joined the Red Army and fell fighting for Poland.

[5] In February 1942, with the establishment of the Tarnow [Tarnów] ghetto in the Cracow district, the Blumenkranzes decided to find a foster mother for their four-year-old daughter, Lea, outside the ghetto. Janina Walega, a single woman who lived on the outskirts of the city, agreed to shelter little Lea in her home. However, only a few days later, neighbors began suspecting that Lea was Jewish and blackmailers and extortionists began threatening her. Hiding her little charge in a suitcase, Walega traveled with her in a compartment full of Germans to the town of Przemysl [Przemyśl], where she enrolled Lea, under a false identity, in a children’s institution run by Catholic nuns. Walega paid for her upkeep at the institution until the area was liberated.

[6] After her mother’s death in 1942, 11-year-old Felicja Seifert was smuggled out of the ghetto to the Aryan side of Cracow. Felicja’s father, who lived under an assumed identity outside the Cracow ghetto, arranged this daring operation.

Felicja was sent to a farm in the village of Wawrzenczyce [Wawrzeńczyce] in the county of Miechow [Miechów], near Cracow, where, together with another Jewish couple, she stayed for about a year. One day, the Germans raided the farm and arrested the farm owners and the Jewish couple, Felicja managed to escape and ran to the private tutor the farm owners had hired for her, who sent her to Aleksandra Mianowska in Cracow, a Zegota [Żegota] activist. Mianowska

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[7] During the occupation, Franciszek and Maria Kielan lived in Warsaw with their daughters, Krystyna and Zofia. One day in 1942, Krystyna got to know Janina Prot, a new girl in her class. In due course, as the two became friends, Janina told Krystyna that she was Jewish and that she had left her parents, who were hiding in a nearby town, and had come to Warsaw on her own, believing that she had a greater chance of surviving there. Stirred by her friend’s plight, Krystyna and her sister, Zofia, decided to ask their parents to shelter Janina. Despite the danger, the parents agreed and took Janina into their home without expecting anything in return. Later, the Kielans arranged for Janina to stay with acquaintances in a village, where she helped with the housework, but she was soon sent back to the Kielans after the village authorities became suspicious of her true identity. One day in 1942, Prot was joined by Romana Laks, who also turned up on the Kielans’ doorstep after her hiding on the Aryan side of the city became too dangerous. For several months, the Kielans and their two daughters sheltered both Janina and Romana until Romana found a place in a convent near Warsaw, where she remained until the area was liberated by the Red Army. After suffering terrible hardships during the Warsaw Uprising in the summer of 1942, Prot stayed with the Kielans until the area was liberated. After the war, the two survivors emigrated to the United States … [8] Giga Kochanowska, a spinster who lived in Warsaw, was indebted to her Jewish friends who, before the war, had helped her through periods of economic hardship. During the occupation, when several of these friends were interned in the local ghetto, Kochanowska repaid their kindness by risking her life to save them. In early 1942, Kochanowska helped her friend Estera Marber escape from the ghetto and put her up in her small apartment, where she looked after her devotedly, without expecting anything in return. She also entered the ghetto, at great personal risk, to bring food to her friends Moshe and Estera Borten and their baby daughter, Julia, who was born in the ghetto. In December 1942, when the Bortens asked Kochanowska to help them escape, she devised a daring plan which entailed crawling through a sewer to the Aryan side of the city. As soon as they arrived, Kochanowska provided them with Aryan papers and rented accommodations for them. When, some two months later, the landlord refused to extend the lease, Kochanowska, with considerable ingenuity, found the Bortens two separate apartments on the eastern side of the city and arranged for the baby to be sent to an institution outside Warsaw run by nuns. In late summer 1944, after the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, Kochanowska and Marber were driven out of Warsaw and, after suffering much privation, were liberated in January 1945. The Bortens were liberated in September 1944 and after the war immigrated to Israel. Marber later emigrated to France.

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