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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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Pola Hipsz, who returned to Poland after the war from exile in Siberia, credits Karol Wojtyła, then a young priest, with helping her to locate her her husband, Daniel Sztarksztejn, and reuniting with him in London, England. (See Marilyn Schimmel, Witnesses: Voices from the Holocaust [Melbourne: Macmillan, 2005].) There also exist some sketchy accounts of Karol Wojtyła’s wartime rescue activities. According to Paul Johnson, Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Restoration (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982), at page 10: “His name also figured on a Nazi blacklist on account of his activities on behalf of the Jewish community in Cracow and its neighbourhood. As recorded in the archives of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the Jewish organization, he belonged to an underground group which took Jewish families out of the ghettos, gave them new identity papers and, if necessary, found them hiding places.” According to another source, Marek Halter, Stories of Deliverance: Speaking with Men and Women Who Rescued Jews from the Holocaust (Chicago and La Salle, Illinois, 1997), at pages 258–59: “Many people have told me: he was one of the people who took risks for the Jews. We know, for example, that he made false papers for them during the war. … this young man participated in making, inside the Bishop’s palace, false papers destined for Polish members of the Resistance and Jews.” A little known chapter of the war is the rescue effort of Henryk Sławik, the Polish chargé d’affaires in Budapest, who is credited with rescuing at least five thousand Polish Jews, both members of the military and civilians, who fled to Hungary during the war. When Germany invaded Hungary in March 1944 and embarked on a massive deportation of its Jews to Auschwitz, the fate of Polish Jews living in camps for Polish refugees became very precarious. The rescue operation required that Polish Jews pass as Catholic Poles, and therefore Sławik turned to the Polish Committee and the Polish Catholic Mission in Hungary, headed by the Pauline priest, Rev. Michał Zembrzuski, for assistance. The Polish Catholic Mission, which counted some 60 priests, stationed for the most part in the camps set up for refugees, issued instructions to all its priests to assist any Jew who needed to assume a new identity as a Christian. Every Jew who sought a false baptismal certificate was issued one without question, without having to undergo baptism or conversion. Although this fact became widely known among the Polish Catholic refugees, none of the Jew was denounced. All of them were able to escape and leave Hungary in time.

About 100 Jewish children were placed in a special orphanage in the town of Vác, ostensibly housing children of Polish officers, where they posed as Catholics. A Piarist priest from Slovakia, Rev. Pavel Boharčík (also known as Bucharczyk), pretended to teach religion to the children. The children and Jewish personnel attended Sunday mass at the local church as part of their guise. Itzhak Bretler, a Jew passing as a Catholic by the name of Władysław Bratkowski, taught the children the Old Testament and Torah. When Fr. Zembrzuski visited the orphanage, the Jewish children would greet him with the words “Praised be Jesus Christ!” The children still recall the warm and caring atmosphere that permeated the orphanage. Sławik was arrested by the Germans on March 19, 1944. Although brutally tortured, he did not betray any of his Hungarian and Polish colleagues. He was sent to the Mauthhausen concentration camp where he was executed probably in August 1944. Henryk Sławik and Rev. Boharčík were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Gentile. (Henryk Zvi Zimmermann, Przeżyłem, pamiętam, świadczę [Kraków: Baran i Suszczyński, 1997], chapter 32.) The following account is from Gutman and Bender, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, volume 5: Poland, Part 2, at pages 768–69.

With the defeat of Poland in September 1939 and the subsequent German [and Soviet] occupation, thousands of Poles crossed into Hungary and settled there. The Polish refugees were followed by hundreds of Jewish families. Among them were also many orphaned children. Izaak Brettler (Wladyslaw [Władysław] Bratkowski) and his wife, Mina, took care of many of them. In July 1943, they gathered a group of 76 children between the ages of three and 19 from Budapest and led them out to the locality of Vac [Vác], some 30 kilometers away. There, Izaak organized a boarding school and with the help of the local Jews got in touch with the delegate to Hungary of the Polish Government-in-Exile, Mr. Henryk Slawik [Sławik], and asked him for help. In September 1943, the boarding school was proclaimed a Polish educational institution acting on behalf of the Polish Committee in Hungary. All students and personnel were given forged documents and Polish army officer Franciszek Swider [Świder] was appointed director of the school. Maria Tomanek, a teacher, also

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The following testimonial bears eloquent witness to the sacrifice and selflessness of countless Polish rescuers, among them members of the clergy, whose identity will never be known. (Gilbert, The Righteous, pp.179–80.

Yehuda Bauer, a pioneer of research and writing on the Holocaust, tells a story from his personal experience in Israel after the war … ‘On my kibbutz,’ he writes, ‘there lives a man whom we shall call here Tolek. All he knows about himself is his name. He was born near Cracow [Kraków], or in Cracow, prior to World War II, and he was three when the war broke out. He was in an orphanage, probably because his father had died and his mother could not support him. A Polish woman took this circumcised man-child to her home and raised him there during the Nazi occupation, in alliance with a Catholic parish priest. When the Nazis came searching Polish homes for Jewish children, the woman used to hand over Tolek to the priest. Tolek still remembers how, at the age of five and six, he used to assist the priest at Mass, swinging the incense around, walking behind the priest through the church. They survived the war, and when liberation came, the woman took Tolek to a Jewish children’s home and said, “This is a Jewish child, I have kept him throughout the war, he belongs to your people, take him and look after him.” Tolek does not know the name of the Polish woman, nor does he know the name of the priest.’ Once the German occupation came to an end, as we have seen, priests who were entrusted with Torah scrolls for safekeeping, returned them to the remnants of the Jewish community. (Yehuda Weinstock, “Returned from the Red Army,” in Shuval, The Szczebrzeszyn Memorial Book, p.191.) Arriving in Lublin, after I was let go from the Red Army in the year 1944, … Lublin could be compared to a [prison] camp. The bombs fell on the side where the Nazis were. No people could be seen in the streets. I ran into single Jews and they told me about the terrifying fate that had befallen all the Jews of Poland.

As a soldier in the Red Army, they invited me to the ‘Peretz House,’ where there were several hundred Jews—men and women, mostly partisans from the forests, a large number from out of the country, who were dragged by German fascists to the Polish camps to be killed.

The day was precisely Hoshana Rabbah. The Jews made a pulpit out of stones in order to conduct services, and a Polish priest that had concealed 6 Torah scrolls, brought them to the ‘Peretz House.’ All of the several hundred Jews began to pray and prepare for the Festival Holiday.

265 Select Bibliography

Many additional testimonies and descriptions of assistance by the Catholic clergy can be found in the following


 Władysław Bartoszewski and Zofia Lewin, eds., Righteous Among Nations: How Poles Helped the Jews, 1939–1945 (London: Earlscourt Publications, 1969), especially at pages 329–62. (See also pp.lxxxii–lxxxiv, 13–15, 18, 50–52, 61, 86–87, 130, 132, 150–53, 167–70, 173, 201–202, 216, 233, 259–60, 277–80, 295, 306–308, 375, 396, 397, 399–401, 404–405, 406, 415–17, 513–17, 522–23, 588–90.) A significantly abridged version of this book was published in the United States as The Samaritans: Heroes of the Holocaust (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970).

 Nahum Bogner, “The Convent Children: The Rescue of Jewish Children in Polish Convents During the Holocaust,” in Yad Vashem Studies (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, 1999), volume 27: pp.235–85. Internet: http://www1.yadvashem.org/download/about_holocaust/studies/bogner_full.pdf.

 Nahum Bogner, At the Mercy of Strangers: The Rescue of Hidden Jewish Children in Poland (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009).

 Martin Gilbert, The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (Toronto: Key Porter, 2003), pp.1–180.

 Jakub Gutenbaum and Agnieszka Latała, eds., The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak, volume 2 (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2005).

 Israel Gutman and Sara Bender, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Volumes 4 & 5: Poland, 2 parts (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2004).

 Jerzy Kłoczowski, “The Religious Orders and the Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland,” Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies (Oxford: Basil Blackwell for the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, 1988), volume 3: pp.238–43.

 Ewa Kurek-Lesik, “The Conditions of Admittance and the Social Background of Jewish Children Saved by Women’s Religious Orders in Poland From 1939–1945,” in Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies (Oxford: Basil Blackwell for the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, 1988), volume 3: pp.244–75.

 Ewa Kurek-Lesik, “The Role of Polish Nuns in the Rescue of Jews, 1939–1945,” in Embracing the Other:

Philosophical, Psychological, and Historical Perspectives on Altruism, edited by Pearl M. Oliner, Samuel P. Oliner, Lawrence Baron, Lawrence A. Blum, Dennis L. Krebs, and Zuzanna M. Smolenska (New York; New York University Press, 1992), pp.328–34.

 Ewa Kurek, Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German Occupied Poland, 1939–1945 (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1997), especially at pages 139–204. Kurek identifies 53 orders of nuns who rescued no fewer than 1,200 Jewish children in almost 200 convents and institutions.

 Wiktoria Śliwowska, ed., The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak, volume 1 (Evanston, Illinois:

Northwestern University Press, 1998).

 Zygmunt Zieliński, “Activities of Catholic Orders on Behalf of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland,” in Judaism and

Christianity Under the Impact of National Socialism, edited by Otto Dov Kulka and Paul R. Mendes-Flohr (Jerusalem:

The Historical Society of Israel and The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1987), pp.381–94.

Important Polish-language sources include:

 Władysław Bartoszewski and Zofia Lewinówna, eds., Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej: Polacy z pomocą Żydom 1939–1945, Second revised and expanded edition (Kraków: Znak, 1969). This volume is more comprehensive than the two Englishlanguage versions noted above and contains numerous additional examples of clergy rescue.

 Teresa Antonietta Frącek, “Ratowały, choć za to groziła śmierć,” 6 Parts, Nasz Dziennik, March 8–9, March 12, March 15–16, March 19, March 26, April 4, 2008.

 Michał Grynberg, Księga sprawiedliwych (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1993).

 Franciszek Kącki, Udział księży i zakonnic w holokauście Żydów, second revised and expanded edition (Warsaw:

Adiutor, 2002).

 Ewa Kurek, Dzieci żydowskie w klasztorach: Udział żeńskich zgromadzeń zakonnych w akcji ratowania dzieci żydowskich w Polsce w latach 1939–1945 (Lublin: Clio, 2001). This is an expanded version of Ewa Kurek’s Englishlanguage book Your Life Is Worth Mine.

 Katarzyna Meloch and Halina Szostkiewicz, eds., Dzieci Holocaustu mówią…, volume 3 (Warsaw: Midrasz and Stowarzyszenie “Dzieci Holocaustu” w Polsce, 2008).

266  Agata Mirek, “Żeńskie zgromadzenia zakonne w Polsce w latach 1939–1945 wobec Żydów,” in Łukasz Roszkiewicz and Jan Żaryn, eds., “Dobre sąsiedztwo” (Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2008).

 Elżbieta Rączy, Pomoc Polaków dla ludności żydowskiej na Rzeszowszczyźnie 1939–1945 (Rzeszów: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2008).

 Franciszek Stopniak, “Duchowieństwo katolickie i Żydzi w Polsce w latach II wojny światowej,” in Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis No. 815—Studia nad Faszyzmem i Zbrodniami Hitlerowskimi (Wrocław), volume 11 (1987): pp.195– 215.

 Franciszek Stopniak, “Duchowieństwo katolickie z pomocą Żydom w II wojnie światowej,” in Saeculum Christianum (Warszawa: Akademia Teologii Katolickiej), volume 2 (1995), no. 1: pp.89–99.

 Franciszek Stopniak, “Katolickie duchowieństwo w Polsce i Żydzi w okresie niemieckiej okupacji,” in Krzysztof DuninWąsowicz, ed., Społeczeństwo polskie wobec martyrologii i walki Żydów w latach II wojny światowej: Materiały z sesji w Instytucie Historii PAN w dniu 11.III.1993 r. (Warszawa: Instytut Historii PAN, 1996), pp.19–55.

 Franciszek Stopniak, “Katolickie duchowieństwo w Polsce i Żydzi w okresie niemieckiej okupacji,” in Polskie podziemie polityczne wobec zagłady Żydów w czasie okupacji niemieckiej, Conference Papers, Warsaw, April 22, 1987 (Warszawa: Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce–Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, and Polskie Towarzystwo “Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata,” 1988), pp.66–84.

 Franciszek Stopniak, “Pomoc kleru polskiego dla dzieci w II wojnie światowej,” in Franciszek Stopniak, ed., Kościół katolicki na ziemiach Polski w czasie II wojny światowej: Materiały i studia (Warszawa: Akademia Teologii Katolickiej, 1981), volume 10, no. 5, pp.3–63.

 Andrzej Żbikowski, ed., Polacy i Żydzi pod okupacją niemiecką 1939–1945: Studia i materiały (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2006).

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