Those Who Rescued Jews
A tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations, featuring those who live in the Kraków region today.
Chris Schwarz ©
Katherine Craddy, Tomasz Kuncewicz
Tomasz Strug (Polish), Dennis Misler (English)
Those Who Rescued Jews
A tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations, featuring those who live in the Kraków region today.
Introduction Katherine Craddy,
Published by the Galicia Jewish Museum, in cooperation with the Auschwitz Jewish Center and the Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA).
Published by the Galicia Jewish Museum (ul. Dajwór 18, 31-052 Kraków, Poland, www.galiciajewishmuseum.org), in cooperation with the Auschwitz Jewish Center and the Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA)
This catalogue was published through the generous support of Sigmund A. Rolat
The exhibition presented in this catalogue was made possible by a generous grant from the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
All statistics are reproduced with kind permission of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel. Archival research was conducted with the assistance of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.
The exhibition organizers also wish to thank the following individuals for their assistance:
Exhibition Academic Advisors:
Dr Edyta Gawron (Jagiellonian University)
Dr Mordechai Paldiel (Yad Vashem)
Prof. Antony Polonsky (Brandeis University)
Prof. Jonathan Webber (Birmingham University)
Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews
The Talmud, in a well-known passage teaches that, when Cain killed Abel, he killed not only his brother, but also all his yet-unborn descendants (TB Sanhedrin 4:5). For “he who kills one life is considered as if he had destroyed an entire world”, and therefore “he who saves one life is regarded as if he had saved an entire world”. This Talmudic quotation, which is part of the Yad Vashem diploma awarded to the Righteous, should be treated literally: not only those Jews who have been personally saved by the Righteous owe them their lives, but all their descendants as well.
Thousands upon thousands of Jews worldwide are alive today because one day, decades ago, someone had decided to risk his life to protect a hunted individual from the most implacable killing machine the world had ever known. And just as the Pesach Haggadah teaches us that we all should consider ourselves as having personally stood at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given, so should all the descendants of those saved by the Righteous consider themselves as having personally stood at their doors, awaiting the decision which meant the difference between life and death. The heroism the Righteous had displayed was an event which was limited in time; our gratitude, however, can know no limits. It will remain for as long as the Jewish people exist.
When a string of Righteous Gentiles, from acquaintances in Warsaw to a former employee in a small village near Jasło in south-eastern Poland, as well as their relatives
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green
The Memory of the Righteous
Righteous to be considered exceptional, this belief would fail. Therefore, they would rather give up their recognition, than their hope.
And yet, this nobility of spirit is not the only reason for their avoidance of the limelight. Under German occupation, the Righteous had to fear their neighbours more than the authorities: a Jew in hiding was a potential threat to all those who lived nearby, and often the Righteous had to transfer their charges elsewhere, under pressure from terrified neighbours. Then there were also those, who believed that the murder of Jews by Germans benefits Poland, so Jews should not be helped. Yet we should not hasten t condemn these neighbours, acted out of cowardice, and not vileness, just as we should not hasten to condemn those who for that reason refused a tracked Jew their aid: while one can expect heroism, one has no moral right to demand it. And I can only thank my Maker that I myself had never been put to such a test.
This, unhappily, does not close the debate, however – for many Righteous encountered hostility in Poland even after the war was over. When in the immediate post-war years the Kraków liberal Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny started to publicize the heroism of Poles who had saved Jews, many Righteous named in the articles called in to complain: their neighbours were angry, they said, that their safety had been compromised to save detestable Jews. Even today, many descendants of the Righteous refuse to accept the Yad Vashem award, for fear of irritating their neighbours – or inviting burglars, eager to lay their hands on the Jewish gold the Righteous must have amassed. Antonina Wyrzykowska, who saved seven Jews in Jedwabne, the site of a mass murder of Jews by Poles under German occupation, was after the war hounded out of her town for having helped the enemy; even today, she would not return. Henryk Sławik, Polish representative in wartime Hungary, who saved thousands of Polish Jews by issuing them IDs identifying them as Catholics, and who was martyred in a German camp, still has not even a street named after him in his native Sosnowiec. Most damningly, the Polish Parliament had repeatedly refused to grant the Righteous veteran rights, until it finally, just a few years ago, conceded.
There seems also to be a Poland which considers the Righteous traitors, not heroes. Yet this is a Poland which, grotesquely inflating their numbers, trots them out each time when accusations of Polish antisemitism are heard, as if, in some obscene moral arithmetic, the heroes would cancel out the villains. Though, mercifully, the claim of the detractors of the Righteous to represent Poland is as spurious as it is insulting, the proposition that it is the Righteous who are the nation’s true face is also open to challenge. Each country has its share of heroes and villains.
and friends, saved under German occupation my maternal grandfather from death, my mother was already an adult, a soldier in the Polish Army in Russia. Neither she, nor I, her descendant, nor my children, owe their lives directly to these heroes. And yet I, too, feel as if I had stood at their doors – for, by protecting my grandfather, they not only saved his life, but also saved for his descendants the belief in a world which is not irredeemably evil. Had there been no Righteous, had the only thing which could stand between a Jew and his death been a machine gun, such as the one my mother had carried in her years in the trenches, some Jews would of course have still survived – but would the world they had survived into have been worth living in?
Nowhere in German-occupied Europe have there been as many Righteous Gentiles as in Poland – and we have to remember that those who have been recognized, under Yad Vashem’s very strict criteria, are only part of a larger group, whose numbers we will never know. It is true that this was due not to some alleged moral superiority of the Polish people over all other occupied nations, but to the fact that it was here, in Poland, that the greatest number of Europe’s Jews lived; had the Poles not been the largest group among their saviours, this would have been a damning indictment. And yet this in no way can reduce the Poles’ legitimate pride in their heroism, for, in each individual case the decision to save a Jew – often a pre-war friend, but in many cases a perfect stranger – could mean death. And not only to the Righteous her – or himself (most of the Righteous were women): the Germans often would not hesitate to murder, in revenge, not only the Jew’s saviour, but his family, and sometimes neighbours as well.
Death, indeed, was the penalty for remaining human in the face of inhumanity. We know of at least 800 Poles murdered by the Germans for the crime of helping Jews; as it is the case with the Righteous in general, the real number was certainly much greater. The archives of a German court in occupied Warsaw contain the death verdict passed in 1943 on an elderly Polish woman, Stanisława Barbachowska, for “having given milk and shelter” to a Jewish child. Let us recall here the names of the judges: Dr. Leitsmann, presiding, and Judges Mohr, Knoll and Richter. No less than the deeds of the Righteous, the acts of the vile deserve to be remembered for all eternity.
I did not quote the names of those to whom my grandfather owed his life, as very often the Righteous avoid the limelight: they genuinely feel that their acts merit no special recognition, for they had simply done what should be done. And yet I sense in that attitude more than just naeveté: the Righteous, in their determination to save lives, must have been anything but naive. Rather, I sense a stubborn belief in human decency being not the exception,
those whom it wants to honour that it identifies its true representatives. Those who in Poland honour the Righteous, deny their detractors the right to speak in Poland’s name – and yet the latter always try to get moral credit through the heroism of those they otherwise condemn. Hypocrisy, as La Rochefoucauld had famously said, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.
And as for me, the choice is simpler still. Ha-Shem would have saved Sodom had there been ten righteous there; yet more than ten people were involved in saving my grandfather, and occupied Poland was no Sodom, but a country atrociously oppressed by an evil not of its own making. I will not be more demanding than my Maker was. If the Jews and Roma were singled out by the Germans for extermination, the fate of the ethnic Poles was only somewhat better: persecuted themselves by murderers, the Poles might have possibly been forgiven, had they not been able to help others, for by doing so they were reducing the chances of their own survival. Yet this was not the case, as the numbers of the Polish Righteous so dramatically show. While I believe no conclusive moral judgment can be passed on those who, under these circumstances, denied Jews their aid, I do deny those Poles who betrayed them the right to claim to have acted in Poland’s name, while I affirm that the Righteous acted both in that name, and in that of all humanity. I stand in awe of their sacrifice, and have immense gratitude to those who, like the organizers of this exhibition, make their acts known to the world. The memory of the Righteous is indeed a blessing.
The author was born in Warsaw in 1953 and is one of Poland’s leading Jewish intellectuals. The co-founder of the Jewish Flying University and the Polish Council of Christian and Jews, he has written extensively on Polish-Jewish life and is an internationally published journalist. He is also the author is the founder and publisher of „Midrasz”, Poland’s Jewish monthly magazine.
Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak
out – because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak
out – because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak
out – because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak
out – because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Martin Niemoeller, 1945
Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews was created through the cooperative effort of the Auschwitz Jewish Centre, the Galicia Jewish Museum, and the Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA). The exhibition opened in May 2006 at the Galicia Jewish Museum.
The exhibition is the first stage in an ongoing educational project to pay tribute to the more than 20,000 individuals honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, paying special attention to the nearly 6,000 Polish recipients. It focuses on twenty-one such recipients, who live in the Kraków region today. Their faces and stories are given in honour of all those, living and dead, who could not be included. Little is known about so many of these individuals, who risked their lives to save others with no reward for themselves, and today the thousands of descendents of those they saved live around the world. This catalogue and the exhibition record just some of the remarkable stories, in order to make them accessible for others and so that we too could be challenged by their acts of selflessness, and moved to action in our own world today.
The Righteous Among the Nations award was inaugurated in 1963 by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, to honour non-Jews who had saved Jews during World War II. Since then, over 20,000 people from 42 different countries have received the award, yet there are countless more who have never received any recognition, many of whom were killed by the Germans as a result of their efforts.
The award is endorsed by Israeli state law, which stipulates the necessity to honour the Righteous Among the Nations as a primary aim of Yad Vashem, following the establishment of the memorial in 1953. Under the authority of a judge from the Israeli Supreme Court Justice, the award is given according to regulations considering the degree of risk involved; the lack of any compensation – financial or otherwise – offered; the pre-war relationship between the rescuer and the rescued; the lack of any
collaboration between the rescuer and the Germans; and verification of the story by the rescued or their family members. The award may be given posthumously. Once recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, the rescuer – or the next of kin, where necessary – receives a specially minted medal, a certificate of honour, and their name added to the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. In earlier years, a tree was planted along the Avenue of the Righteous, a practice that was discontinued due to the increasing number of those recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. The recipient is also granted honorary citizenship of the State of Israel, or commemorative citizenship if they are no longer alive, in which case it may be requested by their next of kin.
By January 2006, the following number of recipients from each country given below has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations:
The number of Righteous Among the Nations continues to grow, with over 550 added in 2005 alone. Yet there is not a single description of what defines a Righteous Among the Nations. They come from all strata of society, from different backgrounds, ages, religions, and ethnic groups. They were individuals, families, groups of friends, or members of organized efforts such as the Dutch Resistance, the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in France, or Żegota (the Council for Aid to Jews) in Poland. They include well-known efforts such as that by the businessman Oskar Schindler, to assistance by simple villagers in occupied countries. Some – such as the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Hungary, the Polish diplomat Henryk Sławik, or the Japanese official Sempo Sugihara in Lithuania – saved several thousand Jews, whereas others saved just one. All, however, were united in their desire to help their fellow human beings. Those included in Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews are representative of the nearly 6,000 recognized in Poland by the start of 2006, and honours all those who took choices like they did. During World War II, in both occupied Poland and in certain other East European countries, the penalty for helping Jews was death, which applied both to the rescuer and their family. Even after the war in communist Poland, the actions of the rescuers were often socially neglected, and, on occasion, purposefully hidden. Projects such as this are a modest attempt to readdress the balance.
Help during the Holocaust took on many different forms, and Yad Vashem recognizes at least four different ways, including hiding Jews; helping them to ‘pass’ as non-Jews outside of the ghettos and camps; assisting with escapes; and sheltering Jewish children. Each of these had its own risks and complications associated with it, and a rescuer’s own situation both created and prevented many different opportunities for aid. Since the inauguration of the Righteous Among the Nations award in 1963, the question of ‘why’ has been asked of every individual upon whom it has been conferred – what motivated these people to act, when so many others did not? Dr. Mordechai Paldiel, the director of Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, believes the only answer to the question is what he terms ‘the mystery of goodness’. This mystery may never fully be understood, but something existed inside each of the rescuers that motivated them towards good, rather than towards collaboration or even just to silence. Many of those endowed with the Righteous Among the Nations award, however, believe the answer rests in the question itself: quite simply, how could they not help?
Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews should provoke in us a sense of respect, admiration, and regard for those who acted as they did. It is hoped that the exhibition presented in the catalogue will draw attention to the selfless acts of the individuals, and offer them the tribute they rightly deserve as representatives of a much larger number around the world today.
But this cannot be enough, and to respond without a personal commitment to action is to deny both the rescuers and the rescued the honour they should be given. Over sixty years on, the world in which we live is very different from wartime Europe. Yet, our societies remain entrenched in intolerance, and prejudices such as antisemitism, racism, and homophobia continue to surround us, although often in more subtle and pervasive ways than in the past. The story of the Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews and the Righteous Among the Nations calls us to no longer be passive, to understand the difference that the choices of individuals make, and to commit to challenging every example of intolerance that we witness.
Katherine Craddy, Project Coordinator for Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews and Tomasz Kuncewicz, Director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center.6 000
(*The Danish Underground requested that all its members who participated in the rescue of the Jewish Community, be listed as one group rather than individually)
Polska • Poland 5,941
Holandia • Netherlands 4,726
Francja • France 2,646
Ukraina • Ukraine 2,139
Belgia • Belgium 1,414
Węgry • Hungary 671
Litwa • Lithuania 630
Białoruś • Belarus 564
Słowacja • Slovakia 460
Niemcy • Germany 427
Włochy • Italy 391
Grecja • Greece 265
Jugosławia •Yugoslavia (Serbia) 121
Rosja • Russia 120
Czechy • Czech Republic 115
Chorwacja • Croatia 105
Litwa • Latvia 100
Austria • Austria 85
Mołdawia • Moldovia 71
Albania • Albania 63
Rumunia • Romania 52
Szwajcaria • Switzerland 38
Bośnia • Bośnia 34
Norwegia • Norway 26
Dania • Denmark* 21
Bułgaria • Bulgaria 17
Wielka Brytania • Great Britain 13
Szwecja • Sweden 10
Macedonia • Macedonia 10
Armenia • Armenia 10
Słowenia • Slovenia 6
Hiszpania • Spain 3
Estonia • Estonia 3
Chiny • China 2
USA • USA 2
Brazylia • Brazil 2
Chile • Chile 1
Japonia • Japan 1
Luxemburg • Luxembourg 1
Portugalia • Portugal 1
Turcja • Turkey 1
Gruzja • Georgia 1
Suma • Total: 21,310
Those Who Rescued Jews
A tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations, featuring those who live in the Kraków region today.
At the outbreak of the war, Paweł Roszkowski was living with his mother Anna in the small town of Pionki. Before the war, both of them had many friendly contacts with the local Jewish community, especially Paweł who had had a close Jewish school friend.
Anna had been a social worker, and as a member of the intelligentsia was persecuted by the Germans. Paweł and his mother were forced to move to nearby Jedlnia, where they lived in a house belonging to a cousin, Aleksander Błasiak. One day, Aleksander came to Paweł’s mother accompanied by Józef Kon, a Jew disguised as a German policeman. Anna and Paweł agreed to shelter Józef and the rest of his family, his wife, her sister, and their two daughters. The women and girls were given the downstairs of the building, and Paweł with his mother moved to the one upstairs room. But Józef looked particularly Jewish, and so a special hiding place was prepared for him in the attic.
The situation was very difficult and became even more dangerous when German soldiers moved into the empty room next to the women. On many occasions the identity of the family was close to being discovered, and Józef’s hiding place revealed, particularly because he had a bad cough. On one occasion, thinking the house was empty, Józef went to the kitchen to find food only to enter at the same time as one of the German officers: He only escaped by pretending to be the chimney sweep.
The Kon family was hidden by Paweł and his mother for four years. All of them survived the war.
18 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 19
When Aleksander Allerhand returned to Kraków after escaping from a transport to the Bełżec death camp, he went immediately to Ryszard Kwiatek’s home. Friends of the Allerhands since before the war, Ryszard Kwiatek (pictured) and his parents Maria and Franciszek had already done much to help the family.
They had managed to make contact with the Mr. Allerhand, in the POW camp, and had informed him of the family’s situation, and had sent him regular parcels. hen his wife was forced to liquidate her fabric shop in Kraków, they helped her hide the goods, which were later sold to provide income for her and her children. Ryszard and his parents continued to offer assistance after Mrs. Allerhand and her children were sent into the ghetto. Franciszek Kwiatek worked on the railways and had learned about the fate of the Jewish transports leaving the ghettos. He had warned the Allerhands not to believe that the Jews were being sent for resettlement and labour in the Ukraine, but rather that they were being sent directly to the death camps.
When Aleksander arrived at Ryszard’s house, the family fed him and gave him a bed for the night. But it was impossible for them to allow him to stay longer; their house was on the same street where the Allerhands had lived before the war, and the risk that he might be recognised by the neighbours was too great. So Aleksander left, took his sisters from where they were hiding in the village of Mogiła, and moved together with them back into the ghetto.
Soon after their return to the ghetto, Aleksander was transferred to the barracks of the sub-camp where he had been working, leaving the girls alone in the ghetto. He remained in contact with the Kwiatek family, and whenever he was able to he visited them in their apartment where he would be fed and could find a place to rest.
It took the efforts of three families to make it possible for members of the Jewish Allerhand family to survive.
Mr. and Mrs. Allerhand, their son Aleksander, and twin daughters, Anna and Rozalia were friends with the Polish families of the Kwiateks and the Kowalczyks. With the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Allerhand, who had fought for Poland in World War I, returned to the army. He was captured and taken to a German oflag (Officer Prisoner of War camp), where he was interned until the end of the war. His family remained in Kraków and were persecuted under the anti-Jewish regulations. They had to leave their home and move to the Kraków ghetto. By October 1942, however, Mrs. Allerhand had managed to find a means of escape from the ghetto for her two daughters. She found shelter for them with a Catholic acquaintance of hers in the nearby village of Mogiła. Mrs. Allerhand and her son Aleksander, however, were sent to the Bełżec death camp. Aleksander managed to escape from the train. He returned to Kraków, and immediately turned to friends of his family for help.
20 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 21
Bronisław (pictured) and his brothers lived with their parents Salomea and Stanisław Kowalczyk in Kraków. After Aleksander approached the family for help, they arranged for the twin Allerhand sisters, Anna and Rozalia, to shelter with friends of theirs in the village of Monasterzyska, near to Stanisławów. They hired a local woman to ride with the girls on the train there. This woman did not know that they were Jewish and that they had just escaped from the ghetto. In the village, the girls were placed in separate houses, and were to pretend that they didn’t know each other. People in the village, however, soon began to suspect they were Jewish.
To dispel the rumours, Anna’s name was changed to Marysia and she was sent back to Kraków to obtain Aryan papers for herself and her sister Rozalia. On arriving in the city she went directly to Bronisław’s family, who hid her as they tried to arrange the necessary papers. This proved more difficult than they had anticipated, and again the neighbours grew suspicious.
Bronisław Kowalczyk’s aunt, Helena Przebindowska, agreed to shelter ‘Marysia’ (Anna Allerhand) at her place, for a few days. Her daughters Mirosława and Urszula agreed. But the girl quickly became seriously ill, making it impossible for her to leave the house. Helena attempted to cure her at home, as it was too dangerous to call a doctor. Fortunately ‘Marysia’ recovered, by which time she was so loved by the family that they decided she should remain with them.
But the situation became more complicated when another Polish family moved in with them. Wartime conditions often saw two families sharing one house. Without Aryan papers ‘Marysia’ could not even walk around the house, so a priest and family friend, Father Faustyn Żelski, prepared a baptism certificate for her in the name of ‘Marysia Malinowska’. From then on she was introduced as a member of the family from eastern Poland, and she was able to remain there safely until the end of the war.
The three Allerhand children all survived the war: Aleksander was moved from camp to camp, and eventually was placed on Schindler’s List and was sent to the Brunnlitz camp, where he was liberated. Anna continued to pass as a non-Jewish girl, and after the war she was joined by her brother and father, who was released from the POW camp, and together they found Rozalia. The girls left soon afterwards for Israel, where they were later joined by their father and Aleksander after he graduated from university in Poland.
24 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 25
(z domu Bożek) (née Bożek)
During her seven years of high school, Maria Nowak (née Bożek) shared a desk with a Jewish girl, Helena Goldstein. They both graduated in 1938.
With the outbreak of the war, Helena and her family were subject to extremely difficult conditions, culminating in their expulsion to the Kraków ghetto in March 1941. Helena’s father was transported out of the ghetto in the first deportation.
During this time, Maria’s father worked on the railways, and learned the fate of the Jewish transports that were entering the forests full but leaving empty. When Maria heard this, she began to warn ghetto inhabitants of their fate. By the time of the second deportation many of the Jews knew what was happening. So when Mrs. Goldstein was selected for the transport, Helena and her brothers attempted to hide her, and one of the older brothers volunteered to go in her place. Unfortunately, the Germans caught her mother as well, and both were sent to the Bełżec death camp.
Maria learned of Helena’s situation and decided she must help Helena escape from the ghetto. She arranged for a fake identity card (kennkarte) to be completed with her own personal information but with Helena’s photograph. One day, when Helena was working outside of the ghetto on Kopernika Street in the city centre, Maria approached her, took her by the arm to hide her armband with the Star of David, and began walking with her down the road. She removed the armband from her, placed a fur collar around her neck in the current fashion to detract from the poor state of her clothes, and handed her the identity card as well as her own baptismal and graduation certificates: Helena became Maria Bożek.
It was too dangerous for Maria to take Helena to her own home as she could have been recognised by the neighbours, so instead she found a place for her with friends. Later, a mutual friend from Warsaw came to visit, and Helena moved with her to Warsaw under her false identity as a Polish Catholic. Shortly before the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 she was captured by the Germans and sent into the Reich as a forced labourer. She survived and returned to Poland in 1945 after the war, where she lived until her death in the 1980s. Maria and Helena remained close friends throughout her life.
In 1938, Stanisława (pictured) was living in Kraków. One day, a friend of Stanisława’s mother brought her 10-day old daughter, Małka, to the Stefanek house in the Kazimierz district of Kraków. She asked if they would take care of the girl and promised to return within several days. Despite the fact that the girl was seriously ill and handicapped, the family agreed.
Marysia’s mother never returned, and to this day it is not known what happened to her. Małka, whom the family called Marysia, became a member of the Stefanek family. Stanisława, who was then a teenager, treated her as a sister. She took care of her, sewed her clothes, did other chores for her, and even bought her presents with the little money she could save.
It was not a secret to anyone in the building that Marysia was Jewish. One time a German policeman came to their apartment and ordered them to give him the Jewish child they were hiding. When he saw Marysia he changed his mind and said, “with a handicap like this it is not worth even one bullet because she is going die anyway”. He hit her and left.
Also during the war, in addition to taking care of Marysia, Stanisława and her family helped members of Jewish families living in their building, the Berkowitz and Pfeferman families, often by hiding them. Unfortunately, some of them were captured by Germans, and others escaped from Kazimierz to safer places. Mrs. Stefanek also helped some strangers by allowing them to hide in the celler or the attic of her building. In 1943, 15-year old Stanisława was taken into custody by German police and sent to Germany as a forced labourer.
Stanisława survived the war, as did Marysia who remained with her rescuers as a member of their family. She is still living in Kazimierz today.
30 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 31
During the occupation, Krystyna Kajfasz (pictured) and her mother Michalina lived in the centre of Kraków. In 1942, the caretaker of their building began to rent out the empty rooms to students. Krystyna’s mother met one of the new tenants, Mr. Kwiatek, who asked her to take a friend of his into her apartment. She agreed, and shortly afterwards a girl called Zofia Wiśniewska arrived. As it turned out she was using false Aryan papers to hide her true Jewish identity and name, Rachela Kanar.
Rachela had escaped with her family from her hometown of Skalbmierz in the Kielce region after it had been declared free of Jews (Judenrein). She had decided that since she was able to pass as a non-Jew, she would seek shelter in Kraków.
When she told the Jopeks her true identity, Krystyna and her mother decided to shelter her anyway. Despite all the risks associated with assisting Jews, they did so until the end of the war. Often other members of Rachela’s family who needed a place to hide joined her and were welcomed in the Jopek household.
Following the liberation of Kraków in January 1945, Rachela emigrated to Belgium. She remained in close contact with Krystyna and her mother.
32 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 33
At the end of September 1942, Maria Wojtyszyn was asked by her Jewish friend from school, Lola Axelrad, to shelter her two daughters Rena and Janka. The Wojtyszyn family could not afford to maintain both
girls, so they asked Władysław and Maria Jakubowski, the parents of Helena Depa (pictured) and Maria Wojtyszyn’s aunt and uncle, to take care of the older sister, Rena, who was eight years old.
Rena moved to Helena’s family house in Lviv (Lwów). Her mother Lola was able to leave the ghetto on several occasions to visit her, but each time she had to return to the ghetto. Initially, Helena, her husband Kazimierz, her parents, and her brother claimed that Rena was a cousin staying with them. They took her to church to make the story more convincing. But by the end of 1942, the penalties for helping Jews had become so severe that the family decided Rena could no longer leave the house or talk to any visiting strangers.
By the end of the war, Lviv was under Soviet control, and the economic situation of Helena’s family was extremely difficult. Understanding this, Rena chose to leave the house and placed herself in an orphanage. She continued to visit Helena, however, until she emigrated to Israel with her sister.
34 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 35
Shortly before the war, Lech Michał and Janina Rościszewski (both pictured) moved with their parents and brother to the house in the Będkowska valley, close to Kraków.
After the war broke out, the family decided to lend one of the rooms in their house to a Jewish doctor from Zabierzów. Although he had converted to Catholicism some years before, Dr. Bieżyński was forced to move his apartment, because all Jewish property was taken by Germans, and he came to the house together with his wife, two teenage children and other members of his extended family. Dr. Bieżynski also brought with him two women, Mrs. Schreiberg, Judge Eichhorn, who came together with his brother and a Polish woman called Anna, and Mrs. Wagner with her son Paweł. All of these people had had whatever property they owned confiscated by this time, but they still had freedom of movement. Once they moved to the Będkowska valley they had to register with the village authorities, although were still able to keep their own identities. They lived together on the first floor of the house.
Shortly before the establishment of the ghetto, another Jewish woman, Mrs Schenberg, came to the house, together with her young daughter Ewa. They were followed by Mrs Berggruen with her two daughters, Józefa and Maria. They all moved into the same rooms as Lech Michał and Janina, whilst the rest remained downstairs.
Altogether, Lech Michał and Janina’s family sheltered fifteen people of Jewish origin. This situation was accompanied by great risk, and on many occasions German soldiers were close to finding those that were hiding. In summer 1941, the most dangerous situation occurred, when one Sunday morning the German police came to the house. Most likely, they had the list of names from the village authorities of those registered in the Będkowska valley. Fortunately, Judge Eichhorn and Anna were at church at the time, and several other residents managed to escape and hide in the forest where it was safe, as the Germans were afraid because of the partisans. The children all remained downstairs in the house, along with Janina.
The German police found and arrested Mrs Bieżyńska (her husband and children had managed to hide in the forest), Mrs Schreiberg, Mrs Wagner, and Mr. Eichhorn. They were so distracted by plundering valuables that they had little interest in the papers Janina was holding and took her word that all those remaining with her were members of her family. In this way, Mrs Berrgruen, Mrs Reder, Mrs Dukat, little Ewa, and three year old Pawel were all rescued. Judge Eichorn and Anna stayed in the forest until it was safe, and although Dr. Bieżyński and his children did not return to the house they somehow still managed to survive the war.
The Germans remained suspicious that Jews were still hiding in the house, and returned frequently to check. But from then on were unable to find anyone, because they were so well hidden.
On the 18 January 1945, after a lengthy battle, the Będkowska valley was overtaken by the Soviets. Everyone left the house, and Lech Michał and Janina moved to Kraków with their family. Paweł remained with them until 1946, when a Jewish organisation requested him back, to return him to his father who had emigrated to Israel. Mrs Schenberg finally settled in the USA together with her daughters, and Mrs Berggruen returned to Karmelicka Street. Most of those hidden stayed in close contact with the family.
38 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 39
Before the war, Honorata Mucha (pictured) lived with her husband Wojciech and her parents, Marianna and Stanisław Matuszczyk, in the village of Bronów, near Działoszyce. They were friends with a Jewish family, the Federmans.
After the outbreak of the war, most of the Jews in that area were sent to the Działoszyce ghetto. Then in September 1942, nearly all were deported to concentration or death camps, and more than 1500 Jews were murdered in Działoszyce near the Jewish cemetery.
Three of the Federman brothers, Josek, Pinkas, and Hymen, were hiding in the forest near Działoszyce. Looking for shelter they made their way to Bronów and turned to the Matuszczyk family for help. All members of the Matuszczyk family agree to shelter them. A hiding place in the barn was built, and the Federman brothers spent 18 months there until the end of the war.
The Matuszczyks prepared food for them twice a day. The brothers could leave the hiding place only at night and then only to get some fresh air. On one occasion they were noticed by the neighbours, who asked the Matuszczyks if there are any Jews in their home. They denied it. This did not deter them from continuing to help the Federmans, nor did a visit and search by the German police.
After the war, the Federman brothers moved to Sosnowiec from where they emigrated to the USA. They lost contact with the Matuszczyk family after 1950. Recently their children went to Poland to find their fathers’ rescuers. The story of this meeting is shown in the movie Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance after the Holocaust by Menachem Daum (the son-in-law of the one of rescued) and Oren Rudavsky.
40 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 41
Before the war, Witold Stolarczyk (pictured) lived in the village of Dąbrowica in the Włoszczowa district, north of Kraków, with his parents Apolonia and Franciszek. With the outbreak of the war, Witold joined the Polish Home Army and was very active in their underground teaching programme.
In 1941, Czesław Pankowski brought his family to Dąbrowica. Although Czesław was a Polish Catholic, his wife Róża (née Krieger) was Jewish, and even though she had converted to Catholicism it had become unsafe to stay in Czesław’s hometown of Katowice. They were accompanied by their two children, Irena and Maria, Róża’s sister (also called Maria), as well as Róża’s son from her first marriage, Józef.
After they arrived in Dąbrowica, the Pankowski’s were hidden by Witold’s family and remained there even after Czesław and Józef joined the Polish Home Army, leaving Róża, with her sister and daughters, alone. The women remained in hiding until August 1944, when Witold’s parents were alerted by their neighbours that the German police wished to search their house. Somehow the entire Pankowski family was able to survive the war, and after the liberation they remained in Poland, where Róża and her daughter stayed in contact with their rescuers. But as a member of the Polish Home Army, Czesław was murdered immediately after the war by the NKVD (the Soviet Secret Police) and Józef disappeared shortly afterwards also under unknown circumstances.
42 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 43
(z domu Matlak) (née Matlak)
Before the war, Ludwika Molenda (née Matlak, pictured) lived with her parents Józef and Józefa Matlak in Przeciszów, close to Oświęcim (Auschwitz). Her father’s sister, Magdalena, worked in the town for the Gross family, who were Jewish.
During the war, the Gross daughter, Hanna, was imprisoned in the Sosnowiec ghetto with her mother. Ludwika`s mother and aunt went to Sosnowiec and were able to smuggle Hanna out of the ghetto. They brought her back to Przeciszów, and despite many threats from their neighbours, they cared for her until the liberation of the area in January 1945.
Hanna was reunited with her mother in Sweden after the war. Both stayed in close contact with Ludwika’s family.
44 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 45
At the beginning of the war, Maria Mikoś (née Dąbrowiecka, pictured) lived in Huminska, with her father, Józef Dąbrowiecki, and mother Anna. One day her father was approached by the Marks, a Jewish family looking for shelter. He agreed to prepare a hiding place for them in their house. At first it was only a hole in the ground of about three square metres, covered with a wooden board and with a clothes chest placed on top. Later on, a new hiding place was built for them inside the wall of the pantry. Maria and her parents took care not only of the safety of the Mark family, but also for providing them with food and healthcare. Maria’s mother would travel to Sambor and Lviv (Lwów) to sell goods in order to buy enough food for everyone.
But one day, when Józef was at work, the neighbours thought they noticed something suspicious, and denounced the family to the Gestapo. When her father returned that day and saw the Germans approaching their house, he told Maria that under no circumstances, not even if they were about to shoot him, should she reveal that they were sheltering Jews. He told her to repeat simply that ‘there are no Jewish people in our home’, because if not, all the members of both families would be murdered. The Germans searched the house but were unable to find anyone. They took Maria and her father out of the house and told Maria that they would murder her father if she didn’t tell them where the Jews were hiding. Maria began to cry and repeated what her father had told her, that there were no Jews in their house. The soldiers beat her father with their guns, but they finally left. They returned to search the house on several occasions, each time attacking Maria’s father, but they never found the Marks family.
Concerned about the prospect of further searches and the increasing suspicions of their neighbours, Maria’s parents found a new hiding place for the Mark family, and placed them with another family in the same village, the Kędra family.
Helena Bocoń, (née Kędra, pictured) lived with her mother Michalina, Michalina’s husband Edward, and her three siblings, Marian, Zofia, and Józef. Despite the already large size of their family, Michalina still agreed to shelter the Marks. Edward prepared two special hiding places for them: the first in the wall of the house, and the second in the attic of the barn. Both hiding places were very small, so the youngest Kendra daughter was responsible for watching for approaching Germans when the Marks family went outside to stretch their legs.
Helena would often go to Kraków to arrange food for both families, and her mother used money made from the sale of second hand clothes to buy food the family could not otherwise afford.
The Marks stayed with the Kędra family for two years until the Soviet army approached the area in 1944.
48 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 49
Due to various business contacts, before the war Mieczysław’s family had had a number of acquaintances in the local Jewish community, and on 7 November 1942, a Jewish man named Frenkel Zelig came to their farm asking for shelter. Not long after, eight more Jews came to the house with the same request. They were Sidney and Lola Olmer, with their three-year-old son Lejb; Sidney’s sister Tonia; her brother-in-law Borys Ickowicz; Moniek and Maria Laufer; and a young boy called Aszer Rafalowicz.
Initially, all of them were hidden in the same house
or in the barn but this quickly became too dangerous, so Mieczysław, his father, and two brothers dug two underground hiding places, one under the house and the other under the barn.
50 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 51
Together with Mieczysław’s family, this meant fifteen people now needed to be provided for, and Honorata (pictured) took responsibility for this. Most of the work was done at night in order not to attract the attention of the neighbours. It was also at night that the Jews would leave their hiding places to breath fresh air and to stand up and stretch. They were always guarded by Mieczysław with his father and brother.
Despite all their efforts, the family was betrayed to the local German police. When the police arrived to search the farm, however, only Honorata and her father from the Konieczny family remained in the house. As the Germans held a gun to her father’s head, Honorata suggested the police search the house. The Jews were hidden so well they were not found, and the Germans left after not finding anything or anyone.
All the hidden Jews survived the war. Afterwards, all fifteen emigrated either to the United States or to Israel, many remaining in close contact with the family.
52 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 53
Before the war, Stefan Mika (pictured) lived with his parents, Paweł and Karolina, and the rest of his family in the village of Zaborów near Tarnów, where they had a large farm estate. The Tiders, a poor Jewish family, also lived in the village. Mr. Tider worked as a tailor. He had a wife and four children, Mendel, Chaim, Anna, and Maria. The two families became acquainted, as Stefan’s father would give the Tider family produce from the farm in exchange for Mr. Tider taking in sewing for them.
Shortly after the outbreak of war, the Tider family was sent to the Brzesko ghetto immediately following its establishment.
In July 1943, Mendel Tider came with another man to Stefan’s house in the middle of the night. This second man, Józef Langdorf, was also Jewish. Stefan and his father built a hiding place for them in the attic of their barn. Every day Stefan would bring them food and check if they needed anything.
When it became too dangerous for them to stay in Stefan’s house because members of the German army moved onto their estate, they hid them in a nearby forest. They returned to the Mika estate in mid-1944 after the Germans left.
The most difficult time to hide Mendel and Józef was a two-week period in August 1944, when again German soldiers began to live nearby. But they managed to survive in their hiding place. After the war Mendel went to the USA and Józef stayed in Poland until his death in 1970. He remained a close friend of Stefan’s family throughout his life.
54 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 55
Following the outbreak of war, the parents of Józef Biesaga (pictured), Józef and Stefania, decided to shelter members of the Nassan family, whom they knew from before the war. Initially they hid only Mrs. Nassan and her daughter in their home. Her husband Dawid visited on Saturdays. After some time passed, Dawid decided his family would be safer hidden in a different house deep in the forest. Unfortunately, shortly after they moved there, they were found by the Germans. They were taken to the Jewish cemetery in the nearby village of Skała and executed. Only Dawid escaped.
He travelled through the night and arrived at the Biesaga home, naked and exhausted. The family quickly prepared a hiding place for him in the barn. They knew it would be too dangerous for him to remain inside the house with the Germans searching the area for a Jewish escapee. Dawid remained in hiding with the family for the last 3 years of the war. Józef was responsible for watching for approaching Germans, especially during the times Dawid left his hiding place for fresh air. Following the end of the war, Dawid emigrated to Israel.
Od góry z lewej strony; From the top left hand corner: Maria i Krystyna Kon • Józef Kon • Helena Przebindowska • Aleksander, Ania i Rozalia Allerhand z ojcem, Kraków 1946; Aleksander, Ania, and Rozalia Allerhand, with their father, Kraków, 1946 • Urszula Przebindowska • Dom Roszkowskich w Jedlni; Roszkowski house in Jedlnia • Aleksander, Rozalia oraz Anna Allerhand z rodziną, Izrael, zdjęcie współczesne; Aleksander, Rozalia, and Anna Allerhand with their family, Israel, contemporary photograph • Mirosława (gra na skrzypcach), Urszula, Ania Allerhand (z lalką), oraz młodszy brat Mirosławy, zdjęcie z okresu wojny; Mirosława (playing the violin), Urszula, Ania Allerhand (with the doll), and Mirosława’s younger brother, Wartime photograph
Od góry z lewej strony; From the top left hand corner: Helena Goldstein • Maria Nowak • Stefania Stefanek • Stanisława Sordyl (z dzieckiem Berkowitzów na rękach), jej siostra Eugienia i pani Berkowitz; Stanisława Sordyl (with the Berkowitz child in her hands), her sister Eugienia, and Mrs Berkowitz • Rachela Kanar • Krystyna Kajfasz, 1940 • Michalina Jopek • Rachela Kanar z mężem i dzieckiem, zdjęcie powojenne; Rachela Kanar with her husband and child, postwar photograph • Rachela Kanar z rodziną, zdjęcie współczesne; Rachela Kanar with her family, contemporary photograph
Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews
Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews
60 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 61
Od góry z lewej strony; From the top left hand corner: Janka (z lewej) i Rena Axelard; Janka (on the left) and Rena Axelard • Dom Rościszewskich w Dolinie Będkowskiej; Rościszewski house in Będkowska Valley • Maria Jakubowska • Helena i Kazimierz Depa; Helena and Kazimierz Depa • Janina Rościszewska matka Janiny i Lecha; Janina Rościszewska, the mother of Janina and Lech • Lech Maria Rościszewski
Od góry z lewej strony; From the top left hand corner: Paweł Mika • Zofia Szembek z córką Ewą; Zofia Szembek with her daughter Ewa • Paweł Wagner • Rodzina Mika: Paweł i Karolina, Stefan wraz z siostrami Marią i Genowefą, zdjęcie przedwojenne; The Mika family: Paweł and Karolina, with Stefan and his sisters Maria and Genowefa, prewar photograph • Maciej Konieczny • Józef Mironiuk w mundurze AK z ocalonym Wolfem Eglenderem,1945; Jozef Mironiuk in his Home Army uniform, with the rescued Wolf Eglender, 1945
62 Polscy Bohaterowie: Ci, którzy ratowali Żydów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews PoPlosclsyc yB oBhoahtaetreorwowiei:e C. iC, ik, tkótrózryz yra rtaotwowalai lŻi yŻdyódwów • Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews 63
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is the only remaining Jewish presence in Oświęćim, the town renamed Auschwitz during the war. The Center consists of the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue and the Jewish Cultural Education Center, and has a two-fold mission: To provide a place to learn about the vibrancy of Jewish culture and to exist as a haven to memorialise the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and to commemorate the rich Polish-Jewish life and culture eradicated during WWII.
The Galicia Jewish Museum exists to celebrate the Jewish culture of Galicia and to commemorate those killed in the Holocaust, presenting Jewish history from a new perspective. Its unique approach is characterised by showing contemporary photographs depicting the destruction of the Holocaust rather than historic relicts and pictures. The exhibition Traces of Memory comprises photographs taken over a period of 12 years in conjunction with texts by British scholar Prof. Jonathan Webber, seeking to discover the real story behind the physical traces of Jewish life found in contemporary Poland.
The Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA) is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to help develop a generation of young people from Poland, America, Israel, and elsewhere with an understanding of their common heritage and the tools they need to work for a better future. PAJA works to break down stereotypes that perpetuate intolerance and prejudice. PAJA works to accomplish this by developing, providing, and supporting educational opportunities that explore the history and culture of Jews and Poles and brings young people together to meet, share, and learn from each other.
Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire
Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:12
Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews opened at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków in May 2006, and is available as an international travelling exhibition. The exhibition features twenty-one photographs of Righteous Among the Nations from the Kraków region, accompanied by their personal stories. The exhibition also includes the film, In Their Own Words: Four Righteous Tell Their Stories, produced by the Polish/American/Jewish Alliance for Youth Action (PAJA.)
The exhibition features photographs by noted photographer and the founder/director of the Galicia Jewish Museum, Chris Schwarz. Chris is an established international photojournalist specialising in covering social and humanitarian issues. He has published a number of books and his work has been widely exhibited. Before he established the Galicia Jewish Museum he worked for international organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Shelter, and many other charities.
All biographical research for the exhibition was conducted by Karolina Komorowska-Legierska, Head of Education at the Galicia Jewish Museum.