«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»
3. A Sister stated that in 1939, after the German invasion, her friend from school, Salomea Baldinger, begged her to help her receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The baptism was performed by Father Józef Kosibowicz, the pastor of Sromowce Wyżne. As her Godmother, the Sister felt a responsibility to take care of her friend. Her friend’s family was very angry with her. After two years the benefactor became a Sister. Not too long after Maria Salomea came to the Sister asking for help because her entire family had been killed by the Germans.
Miraculously, the friend was able to reach Kraków. Mother General instructed that she be accepted into the convent in Lubicz as a helper. After a few weeks she came back to the Mother House to ask for different work because she said working with the mentally ill depressed her. She later left for Germany to work. After the liberation she returned to Poland.
In 1952 she came to us to ask for a baptismal certificate which she couldn’t obtain during the war. She received one, got married and I was present at her daughter’s First Holy Communion. At the present time she is doing well.
The above statements are based on the testimonies of the following Sisters:
1. S. Adelajda Tomasiak—Kołomyja
2. S. Adolfa Szczerbowska—Baworów, Brzeżany, Tarnopol
3. S. Aniceta Wierzbicka—Brzeżany, Siedlce
4. S. Anzelma Krupa—Skarżysko, Wołomin, Życzyn
5. S. Apolonia Leśniak—Bochnia, Kołomyja
6. S. Balbina Bielańska—Bochnia
7. S. Bernadetta Wołk—Przemyśl
8. S. Blandyna Tkaczyk—Kraków (Mother House)
9. S. Bonawentura Chrobak—Sulejów
10. S. Cypriana Mrzygłód—Drohobycz
11. S. Efrema Lis—Lwów-Zamarstynów
12. S. Emanuela Minko—Częstochowa, Mników, Siedlce, Wołomin (orphanage)
13. S. Emeryka Gaca—Tarnów (nursery)
14. S. Eleonora Janik—Przemyśl, Tarnopol
15. S. Eufrazja Wiatrowicz—Wołomin (orphanage)
16. S. Eugenia Gajewska—Brzeżany, Busko-Zdrój
17. S. Eulalia Dzidek—Siedlce, Skarżysko
18. S. Ewencja Panasiuk—Rząska
19. S. Ferdynanda Grzenkowicz—Kołomyja
20. S. Fortunata Kołodziej—Rząska
21. S. Helena Wilkołek—Kraków-Prądnik Czerwony
22. S. Hermana Bąk—Kraków (nursery)
23. S. Hugona Klimpel—Częstochowa
24. S. Ignacja Pluta—Kraków (Krakowska Street)
25. S. Józefina Latka—Śniatyń
26. S. Kaliksta Góźdź—Kielce
27. S. Katarzyna Bikowska—Drohobycz
28. S. Leokadia Sowińska—Mników
29. S. Lidwina Święs—Tarnów
30. S. Longina Konieczna—Tarnopol
31. S. Łucjana Stano—Bochnia
32. S. Magdalena Kaczmarczyk—Częstochowa
33. S. Marcelina Wędzicha—Bochnia
34. S. Maria Kotas—Baworów 261
35. S. Maurycja Wohnout—Brzeżany, Tarnopol
36. S. Modesta Wierzchowska—Mników
37. S. Pankracja Solarz—Opoczno
38. S. Paulina Adamczyk—Wołomin (orphanage), Siedlce
39. S. Rafaela Kupczyk—Stanisławów
40. S. Scholastyka Bogacz—Częstochowa
41. S. Serwacja Dobrotowska—Sambor
42. S. Seweryna Domaradzka—Kraków (Krakowska Street), Tarnów (Shelter for the Poor)
43. S. Stanisława Kluz—Kraków (Nursery), Tarnów (Nursery), Lwów
44. S. Suplicja Kogutowicz—Skarżysko, Kraków (educational institution)
45. S. Sykstusa Kardyś—Busko-Zdrój, Śniatyń
46. S. Taida Balanda—Drohobycz
47. S. Teresa Wilhelm—Drohobycz
48. S. Urbana Kondeja—Kraków (Krakowska Street)
49. S. Wita Pawłowska—Częstochowa
50. S. Waleriana Żuchowska—Rawa Ruska Zygmunt Weinreb, born in 1935, found refuge in a shelter on Krakowska Street in Kraków run by the Albertine
Brothers, as recorded in Hochberg-Mariańska and Grüss, The Children Accuse, at page 114:
I stayed at the Albertine Brothers and Mrs Thiel, the teacher, guessed that I was Jewish, and the Brother Superior did too, and they helped me a lot. They did not say anything to me, but the Brother told me to bathe in bathing trunks like the older boys, and the teacher got angry whenever anyone called me a Jew and secretly taught me things so that no one would be able to tell I was Jewish. But then everyone began whispering about me, so the teacher took me home with her and put me in a school where the headmaster, Mr Chrzan, knew that I was Jewish and helped me a lot. … When the Russians arrived the Brother Superior read in the newspaper that there was a Jewish Committee, and he told me to go to Długa Street to find out if my father had registered there.
Not all Jewish children returned to their families and faith after the war. The following account is related in Zosia
Goldberg, as told to Hilton Obenzinger, Running Through Fire: How I Survived the Holocaust (San Francisco:
Mercury House, 2004), at pages 36–37.
On my mother’s side of the family there were cousins. My mother’s mother’s sister was Telca Trauman and she had two children, Lutek and Franka. Her son Lutek was married to Hela … Lutek and Hela went through the wall [of the Warsaw ghetto] to live in the Aryan section. They took their daughter Hanka and lived with his mother Telca. His sister Franka also lived there, and brought her daughter Bronia.
Telca made believe she was deaf and mute in order to hide her Jewish accent. She had blue eyes, a good face. … And they got through the war this way to die natural deaths. Bronia’s father, Adolf, was taken away one day near the Umschlaglplatz and killed, bu Franka and her mother, Telca, were able to get some kind of papers and hide in the apartment in the Aryan section. Lutek Trauman was stopped one day, the Germans pulled his pants down, and when they saw that he was circumcised, they killed him on the spot.
Soon after they got to the Aryan side Bronia was put in a Catholic convent. She was five years old, and she was told by a priest, “You are a Jewish girl, but now you are a Christian, and never say anything. After the war you can be Jewish again.” But Bronia after the war did not want to be Jewish anymore and she remained Catholic. After all the suffering, her mother, Franka, was driven out of her mind because her daughter remained a Christian. Bronia is still in Poland, while Hela and her daughter Hanka moved to Israel.
Jews in concentration and slave labour camps also encountered members of the Polish clergy who were willing to extend a hand to their fellow prisoners when the opportunity arose. Michel (Mendel) Mielnicki, a young Jew from Wasilków near Białystok, described one such event that occurred in the slave labour camp at Mittelbau-Dora near Weimar in his memoirs Bialystok to Birkenau: The Holocaust Journey of Michel Mielnicki, as told to John Munro (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press and Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, 2000), at pages 202–203.
Well, very early one morning, I was awakened when my head hit the wooden sleeping shelf beneath it with a thud. I knew instantly what had happened. I was out of my bunk and onto the back of a prisoner who’d stolen my bread in a second.
262 But not fast enough to stop him from stuffing my bread into his mouth. Possessed of a strength that in retrospect still surprises me, I quickly had him down on the floor with my hands locked on his throat, when the Polish priest, who was our Blockältester [block elder], came out of his room to see who was making all the racket.
I can’t say whether it was my intention to strangle the thief or just to stop him from swallowing my bread (and thus my ability to stay alive). Whatever the case, I was on the brink of choking the final breath out of the man, when this priest, who was tall, and heavy enough to have pulled me away with one hand, instead said, “So what will you accomplish if you kill him? He’s already eaten most of your bread, and you’ll be hanged tomorrow. Remember your Ten Commandments. Let him go, and I’ll tend to his punishment.” So I let the son of a bitch go. At which point the big priest added, “God will help you.” In Hebrew! Somehow, he had known from the outset that I was a Jew. I don’t recall that in my subsequent dealings with him, which, given his position, were considerable, he ever so much as alluded to this again. And I couldn’t be more grateful to this Christian man of the cloth if I tried. In his own way, he too saved my life.
Similar accounts attest to the selfless sacrifice of Polish priests and nuns imprisoned in other Nazi German concentration camps. Rev. Michał Piaszczyński, who maintained friendly relations with Jews in his native Łomża before the war, and even invited rabbis to the seminary where he taught, shared his meagre food ration with other prisoners of Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg), where he died of malnutrition and disease in December 1940. When a Jew in his block was denied his food ration one day, Rev. Piaszczyński gave his over to the Jew (a lawyer from Warsaw by the name of Kott); the latter turned to Rev. Piaszczyński with tears in his eyes and said: “You Catholics believe that in your churches there is a living Christ in your bread. I believe that in this bread there is a living Christ who told you to share it with me.” (Moroz and Datko, Męczennicy za wiarę 1939–1945, pp.144– 46.) An inmate of Dachau, where “altruism is almost completely unknown,” records how Rev. Jan Tymiński of the diocese of Łomża volunteered to be transferred to one of the blocks that was ridden with the typhus epidemic in order to help his fellow prisoners who were less fortunate than he was: “He hops from one bunk to another, blesses the dying, no matter of what nationality or faith they are, consoles those who are still conscious.” (S.J.
[Stanisław Jerzy] Sagan, Food Carries Out! [Toronto: n.p., 1982], p.110.) Rev. Tadeusz Gaik, who was also interned in Dachau, struck up a deep friendship with a Jew by the name of Dawid Jakubowski from his hometown of Bochnia, and provided him with food and a sweater. (Tadeusz Gaik, “Moje krótkie wspomnienie,” in Antoni Gładysz and Andrzej Szymerski, eds., Biografia byłych więźniów politycznych niemieckich obozów koncentracyjnych, volume 1 [Philadelphia: Promyk, 1972], pp.72–74.) Rev. Witold Kiedrowski, from the Chełmno diocese, who was imprisoned in Majdanek, witnessed how Rev. Julian Chruścicki (Chróścicki), a priest from the Warsaw suburb of Włochy who had been arrested for helping Jews, joined with a rabbi in reciting psalms from the breviary he had managed to smuggle into the camp. In his capacity as pharmacist, Rev.
Kiedrowski visited sickrooms in the camps in which he was interned, namely, Majdanek, Birkenau and Ohdruf, bringing both medical and spiritual assistance to prisoners of all nationalities, including Jews, for whom he would recite psalms. During the massacre of Jewish prisoners in Majdanek on November 3, 1943, Rev. Kiedrowski was badly beaten for trying to protect a Jewish boy. (Witold Kiedrowski, “Świat potrzebuje pomnika żywej modlitwy,” Miesięcznik Franciszkański, September 12, 1987.) Sister Julia (Stanisława) Rodzińska, a Dominican nun from Wilno who was arrested in July 1943 and imprisoned in Stutthof, died there in February 1945, after contracting typhus while visiting and caring for inmates infected with typhus. A fellow Jewish inmate by the name of Eva Hoff recalled: “She helped us with her inner strength.” (Moroz and Datko, Męczennicy za wiarę 1939– 1945, pp.281–85.) Even as the war was drawing to a close, Jews would still find themselves in need of protectors. Six Jewish women who were evacuated from Auschwitz by the Germans in the so-called death marches managed to escape and hid in a barn. A Polish priest brought them food and sheltered them until the arrival of the Soviet army. (Leah B.
Holocaust Testimony (HVT–369) and Sara E. Holocaust Testimony (HVT–1085), Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.) Edith Zirer credits Pope John Paul II with saving her life in the final months of the war. (“The Pope in the Holy Land,” Catholic Insight [Toronto], May 2000, p.21.) Liberated in January 1945, she left the Skarzysko-Kamienna [Skarżysko-Kamienna] camp totally weakened by