«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
A mother, 38 years old, a small dark blonde with blue eyes, a Semitic nose and olive complexion. She had a five-year-old daughter named Lola. We were able to get an identity card for her with the name Karolina Wiśniewska. She worked for us for some time as a receptionist. After the betrayal she moved in with friends. At this new location there was a small girl who did not speak Polish well. This was the cause of their being denounced to the Germans.
Another tall, young mother with dark hair and complexion came with a five-year-old girl named Gienia. The last name she assumed was Racińska. She was a very hard worker. She worked for us in the laundry. She had two identity documents (Kennkarte).
After a woman, who was surely the mother of a seven-year-old boy named Jędruś (although she would not admit to this), brought him to us, we had four Jewish adults and four Jewish children staying with us. A girl who was employed in our kitchen threatened to turn in the Jews. We never thought that she would actually go through with this. We had told her that she was mistaken because there were no Jewish people staying with us. Everyone had Polish identity cards that had been obtained with the assistance of St. Sigismund parish, which had provided us with birth and baptismal certificates. This girl did indeed go to the Gestapo and gave them all the names of the Jews and which rooms they lived in. The Germans arrived and took everyone they found with them. They were astonished to see everyone kneel in the chapel and pray fervently before they were taken. At Gestapo headquarters, after a thorough interrogation, the last thing demanded of them was to say prayers. Having gone to chapel daily with the other women, they had learned to pray and consequently were let go and came back to us that same day, though in a very depressed state. They no longer felt safe in our home so they left soon after.
During the Gestapo interrogation, Mrs. Racińska was told that she was too young not to be working. She was dispatched to a sack factory. Not used to hard work, she broke down. She moved out of town with her young child. After a short while she brought the child, for whom she had packed a small bag, back to us. She tried to commit suicide by jumping into the Warta River. She was pulled out and taken to the hospital. She was taken by the Germans and her fate is not known. The child stayed with us for a while, then was adopted by someone.
Two sisters, the daughter of a miller by the name of Borkowski, worked in a Christmas ornament factory. They slept and ate in our house. Both of them survived and later left to join their uncle in America.
Irena Bochenek was a young, blond woman. She knew how to sew. The German police came for her one day and demanded to see the registration books. She was registered but Sister Izydora hid her in the washroom. The police were told that she was not at home. When the Germans left, Sister Izydora disguised her and sent her that day to Warsaw. The next day another German came who did not believe that she was not there. He was told to ask the woman at the gate, who was a retired lay person. When she stated that the woman had not returned home the day before, he left offering some chocolate to a little girl.
Jędruś, the bright five-year-old, was placed in an institution for boys. The Gestapo came for him there and took him away. His mother was said to have been living with our Sisters in Kielce where she survived the war.
An 18-month-old child was brought to the nursery in Częstochowa. There were a number of other people, but I don’t remember them all, states Sister Wita Pawłowska ending her testimony.
IV. Bochnia near Kraków—Orphanage
1. Wojciech Pacula, who was a guard in the ghetto, brought a five-year-old girl named Halinka, who was born in 1938.
She was a pretty blonde with blue eyes. She did not look Jewish. She was given the name Kubicka. (Her photograph is in ASA.) She was the daughter of Eliasz Elsztajn (Elstein or Elnstein), the proprietor of a leather factory in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and Róża Weber. She was a very bright girl who went to school with the other children, never spoke about her family background, and studied religion very diligently. At her request she was baptized by Father Pycior on June 6, 1943 and received her First Communion. After the liberation her aunt took her secretly from the school. It was said that her father also survived and took her to Palestine. They both live there and he is grateful to the Sisters for having helped to hide his child.
2. Little Róża, the daughter of a lawyer from Kraków, stayed in the orphanage in Bochnia for three years. She was very 255 pretty and bright but her Semitic features betrayed her background. She also spoke about her parents to the other children. There was a fear that she would be turned in by the older boys. Her fate is not known.
3. For a short period of time Róża’s brother Władysław stayed at the orphanage, but he was taken back because he was circumcised and brought attention to himself.
4. On May 29, 1943 a one-year-old child was brought to us. Judging by her features she was Jewish. Marysia was registered as a foundling and was brought up in safety. During a period when the Sisters were away, according to the other children, a woman had come around asking for Marysia.
5. Ten-month-old Eliza from Bochnia, whose last name was not known, stayed at the orphanage. In 1945 this four-year old was taken by a foster family. When her relatives were later found, they took her with them. Her fate as well as that of the other Jewish children is known by Dr. Jan Krupa from the Health Centre in Bochnia.
6. Jaś Moskowski stayed at the orphanage. After the Germans left, he was sent back to Kraków.
V. Tarnów—Children’s Infirmary and Nursery at 6 Nowodąbrowska Street
1. A member of the Polish Blue police accompanied by a brother from the Missionary Order brought a young boy to the nursery. He was four years old and had been found in the Church of the Missionary Fathers. The boy was good looking, well fed and very bright. He wore a medal around his neck depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and could cross himself very nicely. He kissed his medal often and said his prayers. He said that he had been left in the church by his uncle, who told him to sit quietly and wait for him to return while he bought a violin. The uncle did not return and the priests from the church sent him to the nursery. The boy said his name was Jurek Górski. Later, he told a Sister in secret that his name was not really Jurek but Norek. He was above average in ability and learned quickly. He went to the nursery chapel with the other children. He adapted very quickly. After the liberation, four Jews came with a letter from the reeve and demanded that Jurek be handed over to them. When Jurek was told about this, he took his missal and hid behind the altar in the chapel. No one could find him. He did not want to leave for anything but was eventually taken by force.
2. A girl named Zosia was brought in by a woman who by her behaviour was obviously the mother. For a certain time this woman came to visit the little girl every day, bringing with her anything she could. One day she said good-bye to her daughter and never returned. The child was pretty and bright. A certain German officer took an interest in her and after some efforts brought his wife to the orphanage. They took the child with them to Germany.
VI. Tarnów—Shelter for the Poor at 65 Szpitalna Street The director of a factory in Borysław hid in an attic for two years. The Sisters gave him food. With tears in his eyes he told the Sisters that the Germans had taken his wife. He wore a medal with the Virgin Mary. It was said that after the war he was baptized and found work in a cooperative.
VII. Sulejów near Piotrków Trybunalski During the German occupation the authorities assigned to the Sisters ten Jews to help in the fields. Every day they came under German guard and under punishment of death were not allowed to be fed. One Sister gave them food in the basement, where one by one they came down to be fed. They were weak from starvation. The German guards checked to see that no one escaped and that they worked well. Although the Jews were not much help the Sisters always reported that they were very hard working.
VIII. Kielce—Shelter of the Holy Trinity at 31 Bandurskiego Street During the war Józef Freund, a Jew, stayed at the shelter. At the beginning he stayed indoors only. He felt safe and was grateful for his shelter. After a certain time he began going into town, even though he was warned that this was dangerous and he should stay home. Because nothing happened to him he began going every day and returned happily, having seen something or bought something. One day he did not return. The Sisters started to look for him. When they did not find him at the Polish police station, they went to the German one and found out that he had been arrested. They begged for his release but were only given permission to send him food. For a number of days they sent hot dinners to him. The Gestapo found out about this and forbade any visitors. Late at night, Freund himself returned to the shelter asking for help. He had apparently escaped. The Sisters gave him money and sent him to their neighbours. During the night the Gestapo came looking for him at the shelter. They turned over the entire house and shined light into everybody’s eyes, but left without ever finding him. His fate is not known.
IX. Lwów-Zamarstynów—Institution for Boys During the German occupation three Jewish boys were hidden in the institution. After the war, two of them were taken by relatives. The remaining one left for the West because he had no family left.
XI. Baworów near Tarnopol
1. Pastor Procyk sent a ten-year-old girl to the Sisters. She admitted to the Sisters that she was Jewish. She was baptized.
2. A two-year-old girl was found by people near the forest. She was handed over to the Ukrainian police, who brought her to the Sisters to keep for a few days. She was to be sent to the ghetto in Tarnopol. Because of the efforts of the Sisters she remained in the shelter. She was baptized on June 13, 1943 and given the name Antonina. After the occupation her mother came for her and took her away.
1. Icek Weiss came secretly at night to our kitchen and everyday, in the attic, so that no one would see him, he got something to eat. He also received clothes on occasion. This lasted for two months after which he disappeared.
2. In 1940, after the Soviets invaded, they took away our Polish charges and brought in sick Jewish people. We took care of them in the same way we treated our Polish patients. At the end of two years the Germans came and they took them to the ghetto.
3. During the time of the most intense anti-Jewish campaign, one afternoon a policeman brought in a basket with a foundling in it that weighed no more than 4 kg. The policeman stated that the little boy was found in an empty house. The child was taken in, given a bath, fed and cared for. Because there was no crib for the baby, we put him into a laundry basket, and the children surrounded the little one like angels around the manger in Bethlehem, happy to be with the new arrival. After a few days, a childless Catholic couple came with a desire to adopt a baby of their own. We will not reveal their last name because the Sister gave her word that she would never tell. When they were shown the little one and were told how he had been found, they were eager to take it. They baptized him, giving him the name of Tadeusz. They showered him with the love of real parents. The child was not attractive. He had a low forehead, a big nose and eyes as black as coal. He was healthy and the parents he had were ideal. No one suspected that the child was not their own.
XIII. Stanisławów In 1942 or 1943 a woman was brought to the shelter who had supposedly lost her voice as a result of almost drowning.
We suspected that she was Jewish, but told no one. She also told no one and remained mute. After the Germans left, Mother Superior took her aside and told her that she could now speak because she was no longer in danger. Then, speaking nicely in Polish, she admitted that she was a baptized Jew and that her surname was Jarocka. A few days later she left, borrowing some clothes which she said she would bring back. But she never did bring them back. After a while one of the Sisters saw her in Przemyśl in the company of other Jews.
XIV. Śniatyń near Stanisławów—Old Age Home on Kolejowa Street
1. A mute Jewish man died at the home. He was baptized before he died.
2. Along with Mojsie Grosshaus, we cared for our Jewish charges in a special way, and watched out that they did not go out into the streets. By doing that they would have put themselves in danger of being taken to the ghetto and killed, as others had been. When the Sisters left for Western Poland [as a result of postwar border changes], Grosshaus remained in Śniatyń.
XV. Sambor near Lwów A small two-month-old Jewish child was brought to us. One of the Sisters took care of it for an entire year with great dedication. When it began to walk it was given to an orphanage in the same city run by the Basilian Sisters because our institution was an old age home.
XVI. Brzeżany near Tarnopol
1. Józef and Maria Gelber, a married couple, were Catholics but had a Jewish background. They were in the old age home from 1941 to 1944. They were on in years when Józef died in the home.
2. Helena Uchman was the daughter of a Jewish neighbour. She hid in our home for a month. One Saturday she did not return. At that time there was an anti-Jewish campaign and she died along with her parents.
3. Zosia, a little Jewish girl, was given over to the Rada Główna Opiekuńcza (Social Welfare Agency) by a peasant woman, a widow who was leaving Eastern Poland [i.e., fleeing Ukrainian nationalists] with her two children in 1943 and couldn’t take her. The RGO directed Zosia to the Sisters. The child was taken in and brought up by them.
XVII. Rawa Ruska near Lwów A boy who was found on the street was brought to us. He could only tell us that he had had a letter and money, which a woman had taken from him. His name was Zygmuś (Zygmunt). He was later transferred to our shelter in Kraków at 6 Podbrzezie Street. His fate after leaving that institution is not known.