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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 ...»

-- [ Page 91 ] --

Also in Warsaw, at 7, Oczki St., we ran a canteen in which we cooked an average of 2,000 meals every day on behalf of the Central Relief Council (RGO). Lots of people milled about the street until 4 p.m. After that hour, when everything calmed down, Jewish children turned up as if they had sprung from the earth. They penetrated to that district all the way from the ghetto. In the main, they were small boys and were excellently organized. One of them would stand guard at the point where Oczki St. runs into Starynkiewicz Square and another at the intersection of Oczki St. and Chałubiński St. In case of danger the little tot would whistle and the children vanished like air. Usually, there were several sometimes over a dozen children, each carrying a can. The food was always there for the Sisters would already have made an allowance for the arrival of the children. Quietly and efficiently, the cans were filled. This became part of the daily routine at Oczki St.

throughout the existence of the ghetto. Not once was there a bad break and, although the ghetto was at a distance of from 7 to 8 minutes brisk walk from the canteen, the children always managed to keep the appointment.

After the demolition of the house on Łowicka St., we lived in a villa of Mrs Potocka at 107a Puławska St., also in Warsaw. In the years 1942–1943, Sisters Konstantyna and Imelda took a charming Jewish girl into safekeeping. Her assumed name was Marta Krzywicka. The Sisters rented a room with Mrs Horwat for her. Shortly afterward, a policeman took an interest in her and she had to change her domicile. Marta remained in hiding in Warsaw until her father sent her a passport from Uruguay. She went with the whole transport full of misgivings: will the Germans keep an agreement? Alas, the entire transport was exterminated in Frankfurt.

At about the same time, a certain Jewish female physician was hiding at Puławska St. under Mrs Potocka’s and our care.

She was from Stanisławów. She later died of cancer. We also took into safekeeping the mother-in-law of Professor [Szymon] Askenazy and placed her at Królikarnia as a purported cancer patient. This we could do thanks to the assistance of Mrs Potocka and Father Wojtczak. She died a natural peaceful death there, and was baptized before passing away. We likewise helped professor Askenazy’s daughter Janina, whom a traitor later gave up to the Gestapo. She was tortured and murdered at the Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw at Szucha Avenue.

Our Cracow convent on Starowiślna Street and the subordinated convent in Siercza also assisted the Jews, though the task was difficult in view of German presence in the Siercza house. For example, we hid Janeczka, one of the third-form pupils from the primary school away for a few months. We gave financial assistance to rescue our seventh-form pupil, Hala Friedman, from the hands of the Gestapo. Unfortunately, that worthy girl did not survive despite frantic efforts of her faithful nanny. The money, as it later turned out, was pocketed by blackmailers and we never again heard of Hala.

Also, we concealed in our house a woman whose first name was Felicja (we do not know her surname). A very painful experience was the kidnapping by the Gestapo of two little girls—Ludka and Hanka Boroniec, whom we were hiding away among Polish and several other Jewish girls in Siercza. … Also in Siercza, a Mr Hilman was our cart driver for a long time.

On behalf of the RGO [Rada Główna Opiekuńcza, a social welfare agency] we ran a home for resettlers in Cracow on Krupnicza St. For a while the director of that home was the Mother Superior of our Lvov [Lwów] convent, a fine human being with a perspicacious mind and the best of hearts. There were Jewish children among the resettlers. Among others, Sister Celestyna T. escorted a Jewish child from Kołomyja in the east there. There were also Eryka M., Genia K., and others.

After the abolition of that home, thirty children, one-half of them Jewish, were moved to Rękawki St. One day, another four-years-old tenant was added. He was brought by a tram conductor who told us the boy had been left on his tram all day, nibbling at a piece of bread. We called the boy ‘Antoś’. He later went to Kochanów where the RGO moved the children’s home from Rękawki St. with the others. Our Ursuline Sisters tidied up an abandoned house there, preparing it for the same complement of children. Apart from the Sisters, the little Jews had other invisible caretakers; their next of kin of those families which escaped from the hands of the enemy. From time to time, one or another would turn up for a momentary visit to see their beloved children and then would disappear in a mysterious fashion. One night, for example, a Sister saw a father sitting at the bed of a sick child. All of those children survived.

Jagusia, a 15-years-old, fled to our house in Tarnów while Jews from the local ghetto were being driven to the railway station. She stayed with us in hiding for a fortnight, and then we put her somewhere else. The girl survived.

Many resettlers passed through our Lublin convent during the war. There was a considerable number of Jews among them who hid away for shorter or longer periods. Among them was 18-years-old Marysia from Chełmno, who spent a month there. Mr Stanisław D. worked and lived with us for a couple of years, and thanks to that he survived. We also gave material assistance to our former pupils of Jewish origin. Our Sister Wiktoria Bogacz helped the Lublin community in an especially selfless manner. People used to call her ‘Mother of the Poor’. Thanks to the unqualified endorsement to the 250 action, given by the then Mother Superior of the convent, the splendidly righteous Mother Tekla Busz, Sister Wiktoria doled out up to a thousand bowls of soup every day. Nobody ever asked: who are you with a Semitic face? The nature of Sister Wiktoria Bogacz was best defined by her name (Bogacz stands for ‘rich’ in Polish). This simple-hearted but magnanimous Sister never seemed to run short of bread, soup, or even ‘delicacies’ like a piece of sausage or lard, which she gave away to Poles, Jews, and inmates from the Majdanek camp alike.





Mother Teresa Dettlaff [Dettlof?], the Mother Superior of our Kołomyja convent, aided Jews on a large scale, and the Sisters from her convent participated resolutely in her action. Most especially on grim days of terror—round-ups or executions—our Kołomyja house became an asylum for those that had managed to run away with their lives. With terrible despair, they would look through basement windows and see their relations and acquaintances being led away for execution. Sister Hiacenta S. [Suchla] served most frequently as our courier, escorting Jews to their hideouts. Situations were sometimes fraught with drama but, luckily, our aid was most effective. It required, however, plenty of vigilance, acumen, courage and sacrifice. Among her many charges, Sister Hiacenta escorted Mrs Rozalia Wrońska (an assumed name), [the daughter of a local pharmacist], to our convent in Zakopane, and then on to Raciechowice to her family who had selflessly been giving a helping hand in that action. She brought Mr Ebstein [Eckstein?], a dentist to that same place.

He later went into hiding in Nowy Sącz [with the family of Sister Celestyna Tatarczyk] where he spent a long time and managed to survive. At the beginning of 1943, Sister Hiacenta escorted 4-years-old Ewa Zawadzka (an assumed name) to her native regions of the country. The trip with the child was a dangerous ordeal for she panicked at the sight of troops and policemen and could easily betray both of them. Therefore, a few months later, she had to be moved to her mother who had been hiding away further eastward. The undersigned, being a member of the Lvov [Lwów] convent, escorted little Ewa from Tarnów to Stanisławów. The child behaved quietly, but just before reaching Stanisławów she addressed some woman with a telling Jewish accent: ‘I think I know you, Mrs’ … Naturally, I was greatly alarmed, but everything ended all right. A third nun took Ewa on her further journey east and the child survived the war.

Apart from the event related above, the Lvov convent helped Mother Teresa Dettlaff in rescuing Kołomyja Jews on several occasions. Accordingly, on 24 October, 1942, Sister Ewelina Z. [Zasada] escorted 10-years-old Ewa Kassler [Kesler?] from Lvov to Warsaw where she accommodated the girl with the Order of the Family of Mary. The girl survived the war. She was a step-daughter of the above-mentioned Mr Ebstein. His wife, Ewa’s mother, fared worse. She made her residence in Lvov but was not cautious enough and perished. Blackmailers cashed in on our contacts with her. They followed the tracks down to Kołomyja. The situation was dangerous. They threatened Sister Celestyna T. with arrest;

eventually, a hard-gotten ransom of 10,000 złotys saved us and calmed the storm. Acting with foresight, however, the superiors of the Order transferred Mother Teresa Dettlaff to Cracow.

In 1941 or 1942, we took Professor Józef Feldman into safekeeping for the two weeks’ duration of an anti-Jewish campaign. We placed him at 12, Jacek [św. Jacka] St. During that time, illicit identity documents were made out in his name. He got them, left for Warsaw, and survived.

Mother Elżbieta Łubieńska and Mother Władysława Lewicka assumed responsibility for our aid to Jews in Lvov. For both of them the Ebstein affair, related above, was a harsh experience. First one then the other headed the convent.

During her term as Mother Superior, Władysława Lewicka was truly fearless in aiding camp inmates and refugees. It was she who admitted a Mrs Roszko, an elderly Jewish convert, together with her adult daughter Maria to the convent for about a year. The elder Mrs Roszko later moved from the convent to the flat of Mrs Antoniewicz, the mother of one of our nuns, where she died a peaceful death. Her daughter took another hiding place, was eventually escorted by Sister Celestyna T. to a gamekeeper’s house, and survived the war.

We also gave a helping hand to a Lvov kiln manager (Rosenberg?). Mother Władysława took his jewelry and trunks and other belongings into safekeeping. Every once in a while, his 15-years-old daughter, Marysia, would come and spend part of the day with us while he was taking out some of his things for ransom. He survived for a long time. We do not know what happened to him later.

The Gadziński family, our neighbours in Lvov, also took a young Jewish couple into hiding. They deposited their belongings with us and then would select some of the things, little by little, to pay for their upkeep.

One more fragment from our Lvov contacts. We were on friendly terms with Doctor K. and his family. That excellent man devoted plenty of attention and loving care to the poor, whom he not only examined but also supplied with medicines.

Mrs K was of Jewish origin. One day, when he was in town, the Gestapo came and searched the flat. That brave woman, his wife, succeeded in destroying all papers compromising her husband (he was a member of an organization), and did it practically in the presence of the Gestapo. In the meantime, a chimney-sweep entered. … He then left the flat, but kept a watch in the street until he could warn the Doctor that the Gestapo had come to his home. Mrs K. and her son (a school boy) were arrested as hostages for the Doctor. The organization forbade him to report to the Gestapo and he despaired lest the Jewish origin of his wife be discovered. He spent a few days with us, later came every day to fetch some bread. Mrs K. was detained for six months, then set free together with the son.

–  –  –

In 1942, when the Germans deported the Jews from the village of Szreniawa to the nearby Cracow ghetto, the Sznajders tried to find a hiding place with Christian farmers in the village. However, the only member of the family who managed to find a hiding place was 16-year-old Genia Sznajder, who was taken in by Barbara Dobrolubow, an old school friend of hers who, together with her family, looked after Sznajder devotedly, without expecting anything in return. A few weeks later, the Dobrolubows decided to send her to relatives of theirs in Warsaw, where no one knew her, on the assumption that, with her Aryan looks, she had a better chance of surviving there. In Warsaw, Sznajder was taken in by Zygmunt and Jadwiga Koczorowski, Dobrolubow’s uncle and aunt, who looked after her, obtained Aryan papers for her, and registered her at a convent high school belonging to the Urszulanki [Ursuline] Sisters. The Koczorowskis showed loving concern for Sznajder, who stayed in the home run by the sisters until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in late summer 1944.

Sznajder was sent to Germany with the other children of the home and Koczorowski was sent to a concentration camp.

After the war, they met up again in Warsaw and Sznajder stayed with the Koczorowskis until she finished her studies. In 1954, Sznajder immigrated to Israel.

Confirmation of the activities of the Ursuline nuns can be found in the accounts of Felicja Kohn from Lwów, and Wanda Z., a woman of Jewish origin from Kraków. (Bartoszewski and Lewin, Righteous Among Nations, pp.259, 262; Małgorzata Melchior, Zagłada a tożsamość: Polscy Żydzi ocaleni na “aryjskich papierach”.

Analiza doświadczenia biograficznego. [Warsaw: IFiS PAN, 2004], p.152.) [1] In Cracow I was put up for the night by the mother superior of a convent (Mother Superior Łubieńska of the Ursuline Sisters), despite continuous visitations by the Gestapo. Another sister from the same convent recommended me for suitable jobs, thus making it possible for me to survive. … Also in Cracow I was very warmly received by Myszka P., who got hold of a Kennkarte for me, from the Reverend [Edward] Lubowiecki.

[2] The nuns in the convent [in Kraków] were extraordinary. They helped us—my family, the PPS [Polish Socialist Party] organization, and later Żegota—tremendously during the war. I would have been unable to secure half of the birth certificates and identity documents without the help of that Ursuline convent. They behaved extraordinarily.

Extensive assistance was provided by the Albertine Sisters in their numerous convents throughout Poland. (The following accounts were compiled in 1961.) When the Servant of God Brother Albert [Adam Chmielowski] founded his orphanages in 1888, he helped everyone regardless of their status, nationality or religious beliefs. The orphanage took in Catholics, Ruthenians, Jews, in other words everyone.



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