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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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[21] Franciszek and Tekla Zalwowski lived with their sons, Jozef [Józef], Michal [Michał], Wladyslaw [Władysław], and Stanislaw [Stanisław], in the village of Krytowce, near Zbaraz [Zbaraż], in the Tarnopol district (Eastern Galicia). They were a poor family, barely earning enough money to maintain their household. In June 1943, Ester Krystal and her daughters, Maria and Zosia, escapees from the Zbaraz ghetto, hid in a potato field belonging to the Zalwowskis. When the Zalwowskis found them there, they fed them with whatever they had available and the sons built a bunker for the fugitives to hide in. The Zalwowskis brought their wards food every day and when the need arose they also brought them medicine—all without receiving any payment. At the end of June 1943, Michal [Michał] Zamojre, a prewar friend of the Zalwowskis, came to their house after escaping from a camp in Tarnopol with his friend Izio Kornberg. They were both accepted into the Zalwowskis’ home and were hidden in the barn loft where Mendel Altscher, his wife, Regina, and their young daughter Halinka were already hiding. [Because Halinka was a 6-month-old child whose crying might have betrayed them, she was placed in a convent by the Zalwowskis as a foundling. She was returned to her parents after the liberation.90] During the war, the Zalwowskis also hid two other girls in their loft—Luisa and Rosa Sonensztajn. In time, Izio Hindes, Ira Edelman, and Nachum Kornberg joined Ester and her daughters in the bunker. All in all, the Zalwowskis sheltered 13 Jews.

[22] Kazimiera Zulawska [Żuławska], a doctor of philosophy and the widow of the well-known Polish poet and author Jerzy Zulawski, lived prior to the war and during the German occupation with her son Wawrzyniec, in Warsaw. In their home on Marszalkowska [Marszałkowska] Street, they regularly hid eight to ten Jews, mainly cultural figures. Among those who found shelter in their apartment were Roza [Róża] Wittlin, Stefania Dabrowska [Dąbrowska], and Leonia Jablonkowska [Jabłonkowska]. The outbreak of the war found Roza Wittlin in Lwow [Lwów]. In 1943, she left Lwow and traveled to Warsaw, where she did not know anyone. Furthermore, she could not speak any Polish since she had been brought up in Germany. After a few weeks of hiding in basements and abandoned stores, she met Kazimiera, who invited her to her apartment. Kazimiera did not know Roza but had heard about her difficult situation through mutual friends.

Roza moved to Kazimiera’s apartment in November 1943 and stayed there for three months without paying for her accommodation or upkeep. … Stefania Dabrowska also arrived in Warsaw after leaving Lwow. In Warsaw, she met a schooolmate who directed her to Kazimiera. Kazimiera and her son, Wawrzyniec, helped not only Stefania but also her parents and her sister Margaret (Rita) Mayer, [who was placed in convents91].

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth sheltered Jews in several of their convents: Warsaw, Komańcza near Sanok, Częstochowa, and Olsztyn. Four accounts attesting to their activities are found in Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volumes 4 and 5: Poland, Part 1, at pages 213 and 248, and Part 2, at pages 639 and 837.

[1] In the summer of 1942, Zofia Landowska obtained a forged pass enabling her to enter the Warsaw ghetto and smuggle six-year-old Chana Grabina out to the Aryan side of the city. For some weeks, Zofia hid the little girl in the apartment she 90 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.631.

91 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.645.

236 shared with her husband, Jozef [Józef]. The Landowskis, who were underground activists, obtained Aryan papers for Chana and looked after her. When Chana’s presence was discovered by neighbors, the Landowskis quickly transferred her to a home for abandoned children run by Nazarene nuns (Siostry Nazaretanki) in Komancza [Komańcza] in the county of Sanok (Rzeszow [Rzeszów] district. Since the home was not too safe either [because of Ukrainian partisan attacks], Landowski, at the nuns’ advice, took Chana to stay with his sister, Agnieszka Gorecka [Górecka], who lived with her husband, Piotr, and their daughter, Jadwiga, in the town of Chojnice in Pomerania. The Goreckis gave Chana a warm reception and passed her off as a relative. … Chana Grabina (alias Anna Mackowicz) stayed with the Goreckis until 1951 and went on to become a doctor of Polish philology in Poland.

[2] Alina Wolman knew Teresa Dobrska, later Prekerowa, a young woman who lived with her parents in Warsaw. The two girls became very close friends and Dobrska helped Wolman’s family as best she could. After the Wolman family was imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto, Dobrska would smuggle food into the ghetto for them. At a fairly early stage, Dobrska convinced Alina to escape to the Aryan side of the city and arranged a job and a place to live for her. At the beginning of the large-scale deportation from the ghetto, Dobrska and other friends smuggled Alina’s brother and parents out of the ghetto and until the war ended kept in touch with Alina and came to her assistance when she needed help. In September 1941, Dobrska found a little abandoned Jewish child crying on her doorstep. She took the child in and cared for her in her parents’ home, and after dressing her and teaching her how to act like a Polish child brought her to a convent [of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at 137 Czerniakowska Street in Warsaw, where the girl survived the occupation92].

During the war, Dobrska married Mieczyslaw [Mieczysław] Preker and moved to the Skolimow [Skolimów] estate near Warsaw, where she hid a Jewish man named Jan Zielinski [Zieliński] from January until August 1944. Everything Prekerowa did to save Jews was motivated purely by altruism, for which she neither asked for nor received anything in return.

[3] In 1942, Dr. Tadeusz Ferens, with his wife’s consent, helped his friend Ruth (Justa) Asz and her baby daughter escape from the Czestochowa [Częstochowa] ghetto. Dr. Ferens exploited his position as a doctor in the municipal hospital to place Asz’s daughter in an orphanage [run by the Sisters of the Family of Nazareth], where the baby was baptized and christened Elzbieta [Elżbieta] (later Elizabeth). In order to save the mother, Dr. Ferens admitted her to the hospital where he worked. In due course he obtained forged documents for her and found her work in Austria. Asz later moved from Austria to Switzerland and her daughter, who was adopted by a Polish couple, was returned to her after the war.

[4] In the autumn of 1942, Ruth (Justa) and Shimon Asz tried to escape from the Czestochowa [Częstochowa] ghetto with their two-year-old daughter, Elzbieta [Elżbieta] (Elizabeth). After Shimon was shot and killed, his wife and daughter made their way to Dr. Tadeusz Ferens, a Polish doctor. Ferens provided the mother with Aryan papers, which enabled her to volunteer for work in Austria, and arranged for little Elizabeth to stay in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns in Czestochowa. Shortly thereafter, Marian and Wiktoria Urbanczyk [Urbańczyk] adopted Elizabeth, without knowing she was Jewish. Her true identity came to light, however, when after being washed, her blonde hair suddenly turned black.

Although shocked by the discovery, the Urbanczyks, overcome by compassion, decided to keep Elizabeth and passed her off as a Polish orphan who had been driven out of the Zamosc [Zamość] area in the Lublin district. Even after they had to pay hush money to suspicious neighbors who threatened to report them to the Gestapo, the Urbanczyks did not change their minds. Elizabeth stayed on with the Urbanczyks after the war, since Elizabeth’s mother, who survived, was unable to trace her daughter. In 1947, Dr. Ferens succeeded in tracing her and, with a heavy heart, Marian and Wiktoria handed Elizabeth over to her mother, who emigrated with her to Venezuela.

The aforementioned Elżbieta Asz (Aliza Asch) was the granddaughter of Nachum Asch, the chief rabbi of Częstochowa. Her story—Elizabeth Zielinski de Mundlak, “Black Roots in the Hair of a Blond Cherub”—is recorded in Tarjan, Children Who Survived the Final Solution, at pages 205–6.

My maiden name that I have used for as long as I can remember is Elzbieta Zielinska [Elżbieta Zielińska]. But when I was born my name was Aliza Ash [Asch]. All my life I thought that my mother’s was Justa, but at the time of her birth she was named Ruth. What has not changed since the day I was born? Only the date and place of my birth: Czestochowa [Częstochowa], the town where my ancestors had lived. But this is a lot to start with! Recently, it allowed me to find documents about my true identity. The procedure was long.—How can you prove that a certain can you prove that a certain sixty-year old woman exists, if there is no birth certificate in her name, Elzbieta Zielinska? The nuns, who sheltered

92 Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych, p.431.

237 me after I was taken in a garbage sack from the Ghetto in Czestochowa, gave me my first name. That was before almost the entire Jewish population of that ghetto was taken to Treblinka, the infamous death camp.

Tadeusz Ferens was a gentile doctor who arranged my escape from certain death. My mother was also able [to] escape.

With her newly acquired identity as Jozefa Zielinska [Józefa Zielińska], she was able to reach Austria, where she was a slave labourer, a cleaning woman at the Hotel Post in Bludenz, in Vorarlberg province. All the rest of my immediate family, including my father, Shimon Asz, perished in the Holocaust.

The doctor brought me to the orphanage of the Sisters of Nazareth in Czestochowa, as a child whom he found at the train station. There were many, many displaced and orphaned gentile children as a result of the steady bombing of certain parts of Poland. It was easy for the good doctor to convince the nuns that I was one of those children. No one wanted to hear the truth! Poland was the only country during the war, where the penalty for helping Jews was nothing less than death.

It was my good fortune that a Polish family came to the orphanage to adopt a little girl. They already had a 10-year old son, but his mother, Victoria [Wiktoria], could not have any more children. She had lost her first child as an infant, but her heart was full of love that she wanted to give to a little orphan girl. I was lucky: my new parents were very loving. My big brother used to carry me up the stairs on his shoulders after I had been running around the yard with my little friends.

We were a weird couple. He was tall, strong and blond, and I was a tiny little girl with dark curls … Dark hair…I had curly blond hair when my adopted parents took me from the orphanage. With my blue eyes I must have looked like a cherub. They fell in love with that little beauty. However, a big surprise was awaiting them after a few days.

One day, my new mother was washing my hair when she discovered some “dirt” on my skull that would not go away.

She was surprised, but ignored it for the moment. A couple of days later the answer became obvious. Black hair began to grow fast on my little head. It was a big shock when my parents understood that they were sheltering a Jewish child. They became terribly scared. Their only child, their precious son was as much in danger as themselves in case the Germans would find out about me.

Victoria and Marian [Urbańczyk] summoned their son, Andrew [Andrzej], for a family meeting, Jointly they decided that no matter what, they would not return me to the orphanage. The years ahead were not easy for the family. … We lived through many instances of high drama during those long years of German occupation in Czestochowa.

The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary sheltered a number of Jewish children in their convents in Zamość and in nearby Łabunie, which was later evacuated to Radecznica, as well as some adults.93 Two of the children taken in were Judith Kachel and Tamara Lawame (then going by the name of Wanda Czarniecka). The following

account is found in Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 4:

Poland, Part 1, at page 480.

Blas, a Jewish woman, managed to escape from the Zamosc [Zamość] ghetto in the Lublin district, carrying her two-yearold daughter in her arms. She came to the home of a Polish acquaintance, Maria Pawelec, who agreed to take the Jewish child. After someone informed the authorities, German policemen visited Pawelec’s home and, fearing the child’s identity might be discovered, she placed her in a basket, tied a small bag with a cross on it around her neck, and added a note bearing the name Wanda and stating that she had been baptized. Pawelec left the basket at the gate of the local convent, where there was also a home for orphans and foundlings. The nuns took in the baby. The nun, Zofia-Bogumila [Bogumiła] Makowska, who knew the child was Jewish, never revealed her true identity to anyone, and looked after her until the end of the war. When the staff of the Coordination Committee learned the whereabouts of the child, they moved her to a Jewish institution and she later immigrated to Israel.

Sister Zofia (Bogumiła Makowska), who was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile in 1993, provided the following testimony. (Kurek, Your Life Is Worth Mine, p.161.) During the war there was a swarm of children at our home. Anyone—policemen, neighbors—who met a child on the street or on the road brought the child to us. We had a house on Zdanowski [Żdanowska] St. in Zamosc [Zamość]. There came a time when even our hallways were overflowing with children. We had a rather large chapel in the old building we used, so finally we converted it to sleeping quarters for the children. We made the chapel so small that we had to hear Mass in the hallway. All this was not enough, and finally we occupied a school on Lukasinski [Łukasińskiego] St. Not being enough to house all the children even there, we began to give them, if possible, to Polish families.

93 These rescue activities are described in Adam Kopciowski, Zagłada Żydów w Zamościu (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej, 2005), pp.193–94.

–  –  –

The Felician Sisters sheltered around 40 Jewish children in their convent and orphanage in Lwów. Among them were Rebecca Litowicz from Sandomierz and Felka Meisel from Lwów, who were placed there through the Lwów branch of the Council of Aid for Jews (Żegota). The dramatic story of their rescue, in the words of their

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