Out of the Inferno

Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 224
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcs2h
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    Out of the Inferno
    Book Description:

    " Richard Lukas's book, encompassing the wartime recollections of sixty "ordinary" Poles under Nazi occupation, constitutes a valuable contribution to a new perspective on World War II. Lukas presents gripping first-person accounts of the years 1939-1945 by Polish Christians from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Their narratives, from both oral and written sources, contribute enormously to our understanding of the totality of the Holocaust. Many of those who speak in these pages attempted, often at extreme peril, to assist Jewish friends, neighbors, and even strangers who otherwise faced certain death at the hands of the German occupiers. Some took part in the underground resistance movement. Others, isolated from the Jews' experience and ill informed of that horror, were understandably preoccupied with their own survival in the face of brutal condition intended ultimately to exterminate or enslave the entire Polish population. These recollections of men and women are moving testimony to the human courage of a people struggling for survival against the rule of depravity. The power of their painful witness against the inhumanities of those times is undeniable.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4331-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-ix)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. x-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-16)

    Fifty years after the outbreak of World War II, it is ironic that, among works published in the English language, there is no major collection of personal accounts by Poles of the savage occupation by the Germans under Hitler.

    This book fills that void in the literature.

    The Poles here who wrote their recollections of those years, or who spoke with me in interviews, live today in countries ranging from Poland and Great Britain to Canada and the United States. Of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, they lived during the war in various parts of occupied Poland. Some of the men and...

  5. JAN ARCISZEWSKI (pp. 17-18)

    The day before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, our company of a hundred men met in a large empty building on Okopowa Street. We spent the night on the concrete floor. The older ones among us felt the effects of this night in our bones. We had so few weapons that it was laughable—a few pistols and one automatic. I went into action, like the majority of us, for that matter, armed with a wooden stick. About 5:00 p.m., we moved off in the direction of Stawki Street, where the Germans kept their supplies in a school...

  6. IRENA BARBARSKA (pp. 18-20)

    I became involved in the resistance in 1941, when it was still known as the Union for Armed Struggle, while I was attending underground classes. I knew that many of my friends were members of the organization even before I joined, because they were not very careful about what they said.

    About six months before the Warsaw Uprising, I was given ammunition and weapons to deliver to different addresses. I did this several times. On one of these occasions, I was on a streetcar carrying an ammunition case. As we approached Hala Mirowska near Grzybowski Square, I saw that the...

  7. JAMES BOCHAN (pp. 20-22)

    I was about fifteen or sixteen years of age at the time of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Poland between the Germans and the Soviets. At that time, I lived in eastern Poland in the town of Stryj, east of Lwów, which had been a great city of Polish culture for centuries. When the Soviets entered our area, they came in like a vast swarm of ants. They were barbarians. They robbed us. They raped the women and then cast them aside like rags. Many of the women were killed.

    My father had died four years earlier. As the only...


    As World War II drew to a close, I commanded the Świętokrzyska Brigade, which had made its way between the German and 50viet lines in Czechoslovakia. After months of hardship, my unit stopped in the small village of Vshekary, hoping to join the forces of General George Patton.

    When we arrived in V shekary, members of the Czech underground informed me and my adjutant that the Germans had constructed a concentration camp for women a few miles away. It housed a thousand prisoners. Among the inmates were 280 Jews, housed in heavily guarded barracks surrounded by high-voltage wire. There was...

  9. ZBIGNIEW BOKIEWICZ (pp. 23-29)

    During the summer of 1939, I was away from Warsaw. Since I was a Boy Scout, I was mobilized into thePomocnicza Służba Wojskowa(Auxiliary Military Service) on my return to the capital. As a telephonist for the antiaircraft troop located on Barska Street, I took a call from headquarters announcing that thirty Polish bombers had attacked Berlin and returned without any losses. The news was read out to the assembled company. Since there were constant German air raids on Warsaw, this was obviously a Polish propaganda exercise.

    As the Germans approached Warsaw, Colonel Umiastowski ordered that all young people...

  10. MARYLA BONIŃSKA (pp. 29-32)

    On April 23, 1943, a quarter of an hour before I was arrested, I had been given a message, written on Japanese tissue, from General Grot-Rowecki, head of the Home Army. He signed the message with just the capitalTwithin a circle, which stood for Tur, one of his pseudonyms within Home Army headquarters. The message stated that he forbade the Polish Blue Police to shoot Jews, or else he would deal with them. (The Ghetto Uprising had commenced on April 19, 1943.) I passed this message on to my deputy to pass to the relevant authorities for action....


    In 1939 when World War II broke out, I lived with my parents and two younger brothers in Warsaw at No. 7, Nowy Zjazd Street. I was twelve years old at the time and attended commercial school on Kiliński Street in Old Town.

    The most important thing for this account is to describe the place where we lived. The flat my parents occupied consisted of three rooms—two adjoining and one with a separate entrance. The bathroom was large enough to make into a separate small room. This room, after my grandfather did some work on it, was a very...

  12. EWA BUKOWSKA (pp. 36-39)

    My contacts with the Jewish community were very limited. One year I was not feeling very well. The doctor recommended rest and good food, so I went to stay with my aunt in Otwock. Before the war Otwock had a large Jewish community, so there was a large ghetto. My aunt lived in an area of small, individual houses. While I was there, I saw ragged Jewish children six or seven years old who were small enough to slip through the barbed wire surrounding the ghetto to beg for food. They always approached very carefully, and my aunt gave them...

  13. K.T. CZELNY (pp. 39-51)

    When Germany attacked Poland, my father, who was a major in the reserve of the medical corps of the Polish Army, was asked to report to a field hospital near Lwów. He prudently took the rest of the family with him. In the face of a total lack of help from Poland’s allies, Britain and France, and the hopelessness of fighting armored Nazis, supported by the whole might of the Luftwaffe, my father decided to take me and my cousin and escape to Romania.

    After several days of traveling by all feasible means toward the Romanian frontier, under incessant vicious...

  14. MARIAN DĄBROWSKI (pp. 51-56)

    After the death of our parents, my two younger brothers and I lived in the Henryk Dietz Orphanage in Bydgoszcz, which was run by the Sisters of Charity. Many of the boys in the orphanage belonged to the Boy Scouts. When the war broke out, we took part in intelligence and observation work, helping the Polish forces in Bydgoszcz. We wore our Scout uniforms and our troop leader even had a small pistol. We were very excited and thrilled to be involved with the Polish Army.

    On one occasion, we were on duty at night on Kóscielecki Square near Bemardyńska...

  15. BOGNA DOMAŃSKA (pp. 56-59)

    One morning I heard a banging on my apartment door. I had allowed my apartment to be used by theRada Pomocy Żydom(Council for Aid to Jews), so many Jews showed up there. The address was No. 5 Mlawska Street. It was very close to the ghetto and therefore was very dangerous. My older son opened the door that morning, and Dr. Alfred Borenstein entered. He was almost unconscious, propping himself up with a stave of wood. We knew him to be a charming, cultured man who spoke Polish well; he did not have Semitic features. He and his...

  16. WANDA DRACZYŃSKA (pp. 59-62)

    During the German occupation, there never was a moment when we did not feel threatened. Every time we left home, we never knew whether we would ever see it again.

    In Warsaw, most people had some affiliation with an underground organization, even if they did not formally take an oath. I always seemed to be running errands for the Home Army without formally being a member. In the end, I got rather annoyed with this state of affairs and decided to do something about it. I told a friend whom I suspected of being involved in the Home Army that...


    Between the wars, in the community of Grodzisko Dolne there lived approximately fifty Jewish families. They were engaged primarily in trade; they also worked as shoemakers, tailors, and wagon drivers.

    After the occupation of the area by the Germans, the Jews received instructions to gather at assembly points, and from there they were carried off in wagons to camps in Pelkinie near Jarosław.

    Those who did not present themselves voluntarily to die were later captured by a Gestapo agent sent from Jarosław, a man by the name of Jeske or Joske. He apparently was a German who had lived in...

  18. MARIA DUSZKIEWICZ (pp. 64-66)

    My husband was a major in the Polish army. I received one letter from him from Starobielsk,* but after that all trace of him vanished. We lived on an estate at Rembertów. When the Germans came, I went to Brześć (Brest-Litovsk), where I met a Russian who told me to return home. Fortunately, my apartment had not been requisitioned, so I lived there with my son until his death of diphtheria in 1941. I lived by selling my possessions; the first to go was the dining room suite, which I sold to a trader who came to the apartment. With...

  19. EUGENIUSZ M. FOLTA (pp. 66-68)

    In June 1942, I started to work in an ammunition factory in Hasag in Częstochowa. In the concentration camp near the factory, there were several thousand Jewish inmates. I estimated eight thousand to ten thousand people.

    I had completed commercial school at the head of my class, and I worked in the factory’s bookkeeping department, calculating costs. By virtue of my job, I had access to various offices and positions in the factory. At the beginning, I survived the selection of prisoners whom the Germans deported for execution.

    I tried to help the unfortunates in the concentration camp within the...


    Did I help Jews during the occupation? It was entirely normal for me to help someone whom the Germans intended to kill. But I do not like to talk about it.

    In 1943, I lived in the village of Wożnik, a short distance from the prewar German frontier, together with my mother, sister, and two brothers. I was the youngest child. We lived in the third house from the main road. Often Jews came to us from the town of Żelów, a distance of twenty-five kilometers. They hid in our bam for two or three days. Then I would escort...

  21. ZOFIA GRUSZCZYŃSKA (pp. 70-74)

    Beginning in the fall of 1941 and continuing through the winter and spring of 1942, the Germans brought Jews to the camp in Szebniach. Poles, Gypsies, and even Soviet prisoners were also brought there.

    One day, old man Kiwa came to our house and said to my father: “Wasik, I came to say farewell because pretty soon we will all be together. The Germans say that Jews should go to the Promised Land. They are making camps and deporting large groups of Jews there.” In the fall of 1942, the head of the village received an order to supply horse...

  22. URSZULA HOLFELD (pp. 74-76)

    My sister-in-law, Jadwiga Rydygier, was Jewish and was therefore confined to the Warsaw ghetto. I remember we received a telephone call one day asking us to bring her some sugar and if possible some alcohol. My husband, an army doctor killed at Katyń, had been part owner of a drug store on Żelazna Street, so I received an allowance of two kilos of sugar and one liter of alcohol every month. My sister and I went to the ghetto to take my sister-in-law the sugar and alcohol she had asked for. We entered the ghetto from the side guarded by...

  23. STASZEK JACKOWSKI (pp. 76-78)

    I lived in Stanisławów in eastern Poland, where there were fewer Poles than Jews and Ukrainians. I think there was far less anti-Semitism in central Poland than in eastern Poland. One big reason for this was the fact that thousands of Jews willingly cooperated with the Soviets after their occupation of eastern Poland in 1939.

    I have been called a hero because I saved the lives of thirty-two Jewish men, women, and children in Stanisławów. I don’t consider myself a hero; many other Poles also helped Jews. I did what I had to do. After all, Jews were human beings....


    The Germans carne to my village on September 16, 1939. They ordered us to meet with them, including the new mayor. They told us that since the German people had suffered so much during the war, the Poles would have to pay restitution. My parishioners had to give money, and some even gave grain. A week later there was another meeting. A priest friend of mine, always an optimist, suggested that the purpose of the meeting was to praise us for the restitution.

    When we got to the meeting, we were not allowed to sit, only to stand. The Germans...

  25. WANDA JORDAN (pp. 80-83)

    The year 1943 was one of terror. Faced with a more active and better organized Polish resistance, the Germans increased their terrorization of the Polish people in Warsaw and other towns. The rule of collective reprisal for any act of sabotage, sign of enmity, disobedience, or violence against German authority was now applied on a grand scale by introducing public executions of innocent victims.

    People were hunted down in the streets, trapped, put into vans, and driven to a prison. They formed a pool from which at random a hundred or more victims were taken at anyone time to their...

  26. A.M. KALINKA (pp. 83-85)

    When the war broke out, Polish authorities evacuated my family from Toruń, but at the beginning of October, we returned. In mid-October, the Germans started to arrest Polish men. They arrested my father along with all the other Polish men in our apartment house and took them to the Toruń fortress. My mother decided that it would probably be safer if we left the city for Kutno, where her mother lived. We packed all of our possessions into large baskets, and my mother started to take some of our things to Kutno.

    One morning when she was away, there was...

  27. BOGUSŁAW ADAM KALINKA (pp. 85-87)

    At the end of 1943, the incidence of street executions increased greatly. Prisoners interned in Pawiak or people caught up in street roundups or taken from their homes were executed, ten to twenty at a time.

    I was arrested by the Gestapo together with my father on October 6, 1943. They came to our apartment at about 3:00 a.m. We were taken to Pawiak prison and kept there for six weeks, during which time we were interrogated three to four times a week. Both of us were beaten, and I lost several teeth. My father was told that if he...

  28. EDWARD MARCIN KEMNITZ (pp. 87-89)

    As a reserve officer of the Polish army, I fought in the September 1939 campaign against the Nazi invaders. In December 1939, I joined the Polish underground movement and was active mainly in the Home Army’s special unit, code-named Import. The unit dealt with drops by the Allied air forces of parachutists and containers with arms and ammunition destined for the Polish underground. My pseudonym was Marcin.

    Being a director of my father’s Warsaw manufacturing business, I was on good terms with many of our Jewish customers: Jakub Milard, Chaim Grun, Abraham Gepner, and others. Even if some of our...

  29. ROMAN KIERSZNIEWSKI (pp. 89-90)

    I lived with my wife, Irena, in Warsaw until the outbreak of the war in 1939, when I took part as a soldier in the September Campaign. After my return, Irena and I found other quarters in a one-story home in Zielonka, near Warsaw.

    Toward the end of 1939, we found out from acquaintances about the troubles of Hania Rubin, who was of Jewish origin. Before the war she had been a chambermaid for a well-known wealthy Polish family. The death sentence imposed by the Germans on those who helped or concealed Jews caused Hania to lose her job. For...

  30. ZYGMUNT KOC (pp. 91-92)

    In November 1939 I left Milanowek, where I had been staying with my mother since I escaped from the hospital at Żyrardów. The principal doctor, a woman, had discharged me when she noticed that the Germans were trying to get all the Polish army officers who were there. (By this time, the male doctors had all fled to Warsaw.)

    I decided to go to my family estate, Koce Basie, in the Podlasie region of Poland. I walked most of the way, a distance of some one hundred kilometers, though occasionally I got a lift on a wagon. On the way,...

  31. STANISŁAW KOCYAN (pp. 92-97)

    Before the war, I was a regular officer in the Polish armed forces. After the September Campaign, I returned to my home town of Tarnow with the intention of crossing the border to Hungary. But in November 1940, a meeting with a friend who was to have been my companion on this venture failed to materialize. During my stay in Tarnów, I was a driver for the fire brigade.

    In February 1941, I was arrested by the Gestapo. I was accused of several crimes, among them listening to the radio, training young people in the use of firearms and grenades,...

  32. JUREK KOLARSKI (pp. 97-99)

    I was a young boy, only sixteen years old, at the time the Germans came into our village. They seemed to do the same thing everywhere in the vicinity-terrorize all the civilian inhabitants, Jews and Poles.

    I remember that day quite vividly. It was September 1939. A German motorized unit came into town, shooting wildly at the people like we were animals. Many people of all ages, Jews and Poles, were wounded or killed. I ran into the cellar of a neighbor’s house. I never remember being so scared. I heard a lot of shouting and screaming as the Germans...

  33. MARIA KOLATOR (pp. 99-101)

    I do not remember the Germans entering Warsaw in 1939, but a memory that remains with me to this day is the German parade before Adolf Hitler in the Polish capital, after the Germans defeated Poland in the September Campaign.

    For some reason I can no longer recall, I had to go from Wola to Pius Street. There must have been some prior German warning about not going into Warsaw that I interpreted as applying only to the very center of the city, for I took a very circuitous route to my destination. I remember being struck by the emptiness...

  34. J. KOWALSKI (pp. 101-104)

    During the early period of the German occupation of Poland, my mother and I were more directly involved in helping and hiding Jews we knew than in the later stages of the war, when a very perilous environment had developed. However, even at that juncture I was able to make contact with the legalization bureau of the Home Army, which assisted me in providing identification documents for Jews. Thanks to these documents, Jews were able to live outside the ghetto.

    It was extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Jews to find lodgings in the Aryan part of Warsaw. Jews became...

  35. KRYSTYNA KOWALSKA (pp. 104-105)

    During the war, I lived with my family and four other relatives at 3 Solna Street in Lublin. It was a three-story stone building almost in the center of the city. Next to us was a German club, so we saw a large number of Germans in the vicinity.

    My father worked near the street called the Kraków Suburb. He had, as we say, golden hands. He could repair anything. Many of his clients were Germans. My father worked from six o’clock in the morning to eleven at night. Outwardly, he gave the impression of being overworked, preoccupied with his...

  36. STANISŁAW KOWALSKI (pp. 105-108)

    On the evening of September 20, 1940, 250 prisoners from Pawiak and over two thousand people rounded up from the streets of Warsaw passed through the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp. I was among them. We were greeted with beatings, yells, rifle shots, and the ironic inscription above the gate: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free). Speaking to us the next day, the commandant of the camp, Rudolph Hess, emphatically confirmed our status: “You are dead men on furlough. Your furlough ends here.”

    We were forced to sing a prison song, the first stanza of which went like...

  37. WANDA LESISZ (pp. 109-110)

    In 1940, as a girl of fifteen, I joined the Home Army. I was trained first as a courier and later attended the first aid course at the Jesus Hospital in Warsaw. Until the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, my duties included carrying messages and orders between units and transporting arms and ammunition.

    I lived with my mother, Leonia Gutowska, and my sister, Janina, at 5 Feliński Street, Żolibórz, Warsaw. The house was used as a hiding place for firearms and ammunition of the Home Army. Our home was also used to instruct boys and girls in military matters.

    During the...

  38. BARBARA MAKUCH (pp. 110-116)

    In June 1939 I graduated from high school and enrolled in summer courses to prepare myself for university studies in September. I was a happy eighteen-year-old blond girl, looking forward to a happy future.

    I never returned to school. Instead, the war broke out in September, and we experienced the miseries of the German invasion. The entire country was cruelly destroyed by the German bombing and artillery. The Polish government had to evacuate abroad, and Poland ceased to exist as a free country.

    Germany annexed the western part of Poland and converted the central and eastern part into the General...

  39. HALINA MARTIN (pp. 116-123)

    Tarczyn was a small town. Rickety houses surrounded the square. Poor little shops, run by Jews, were inside the square. There was an ironmonger and an establishment that sold fabrics. Another tiny shop specialized in soap—bars of very poor quality. Here one could also buy matches and, from time to time, even candles. They had sold out of paraffin because the peasants had bought it all up. The poor wretched shopkeepers lived frugally, saving all their pennies. They hoarded them in the hovels at the back of their shops that served as homes. They never spent a single unnecessary...

  40. KONSTANCJA MARZEC (pp. 124-124)

    The event took place in Wolyn, on the outskirts of the small town of Różyszcze. One day my father brought home a sixteen-year-old girl from the woods. She was Jewish. Her name was Eugenia Katz. My family sheltered her in our home during the German occupation. After the war, she emigrated to Israel.

    Quite often we helped other Jews who came to us for food; there was the late Mr. Dołgopoluk and others, whose names I don’t recall because my parents never asked them.

    I remember one young Jew named Geniek, who stayed with us for three months. In the...

  41. LEOKADIA MIKOŁAJKÓW (pp. 124-126)

    Together with my husband and sons, I lived during the Nazi occupation in the town of Dębica, where we had a clinic. Next to our home were the local Gestapo and the criminal police. Opposite our home was the gate to the Jewish ghetto, established by the Germans in Dębica in 1940. Jews from far and wide were brought together in this ghetto. Here the Germans selected strong and healthy women over sixteen years of age and men over fourteen for work in the concentration camp in Pustkow. All working Jews, registered in theArbeit-sampt(Bureau of Labor) and other...

  42. WACŁAW MILEWSKI (pp. 126-128)

    I was fifteen years old when the war broke out. My father commanded the Third Light Horse Regiment. When the war started, theyevacuated all families of army personnel by train to Parczew. From there we made our way to the outskirts of Kowel, where we learned of the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland. We retreated through Chełm, where the Soviets caught us. We stayed at Chełm until the Germans arrived. Then my mother and I went to Lublin, where we spent the terrible winter of 1939-40 in a room infested with bedbugs.

    By the spring of 1940, all of our...

  43. ANNA ORSKA (pp. 128-129)

    I was walking along the street in Warsaw with some friends in November 1943 when I was caught in ałapanka(roundup). I was nineteen years old. One moment everything was calm, the next moment there were piercing whistles on all sides, voices calling in Polish to take cover. But it was too late. I ended up in a labor camp at Buków. There were Poles, Italians, and Russians there. The Italians were treated abominably. One officer who had tried to escape was kept immersed in water up to his armpits. I used to take him food.

    One of the...

  44. HALINA OSTROWSKA (pp. 129-135)

    I was born in Pińsk, where my father was the headmaster of a high school. He came from Podhorce, east of Lwów. After his arrest by the NKVD on March 23, 1940, my mother, grandmother, and I decided to go to Podhorce. The journey took us about a week, traveling dressed as peasants. Unfortunately, my father’s family could not put us up, as our presence would have been dangerous for them. So we lived the best we could, hiding during the day in stables and barns. During the summer months we hid in the forest, going to friends at night...

  45. FABRIOLA PAULIŃSKA (pp. 135-136)

    The year was 1943 when a Jew made himself known to me. He had been an officer in the Polish Thirtieth Cavalry Regiment. He asked if he could spend a few days with me at my home in Warsaw. During the day he could rest because I was gone most of the time, either taking care of people in the ghetto or working in the underground. He stayed with me for several weeks, until my residence was threatened by a police check. Then I had to bid farewell to my Jewish visitor.

    I visited the Warsaw ghetto. I noticed that...

  46. STEFAN PETRI (pp. 136-137)

    When the war broke out, I lived with my wife, our sons, and my wife’s family on Halicki Street, now called Barburki Street, in Warsaw. During the first months of Hitler’s occupation, I built in my home a small hiding place in the cellar. Access was through a cabinet in the laundry room. Being an engineer by education, I executed this in a comparatively short time. This secret place was to serve me and my family in case of a threat to our lives.

    In 1942, when the Germans began the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, I decided to hide...

  47. ADOLPH PILCH (pp. 137-139)

    During the timę of the Warsaw Uprising, in August and September 1944, I was commander of the Palmiry-Młociny Regiment, one of the largest units of which was the Kampinos group, whose commander was Major Alfons Trzaska-Kotowski, known by the pseudonym Okoń

    On August 21, our security forces around Modlin informed us that the commander of a Hungarian detachment had asked for permission to pass through the Kampinos Forest to the south, to reach Laski. I sent an officer to explore what was going on. I received a report indicating that this was a detachment of Hungarian Jews, numbering around two,...

  48. IWO CYPRIAN POGONOWSKI (pp. 139-142)

    I was born September 3, 1921, in Lwów, Poland.

    In December 1939, at the age of eighteen, I was imprisoned by German authorities on the suspicion of attempting to join the Polish army in the west. I was a political prisoner of the Germans for over five years. For those five years, I witnessed and experienced the atrocities of German prisons and camps.

    From December 30, 1939, to August 7, 1940, I was held in a number of German prisons on Polish soil. The Germans debated whether to classify me for immediate execution or for gradual extinction through exploitation as...

  49. MARIA RADECKA (pp. 142-145)

    At about 2:00 a.m. on July 17, 1943, four Lithuanian policemen came to arrest me at my aunt’s apartment. I insisted that I could not get dressed in front of them. They allowed me to go into my aunt’s bedroom to get dressed. Since most people tended to assume that everyone belonged to some clandestine organization, my aunt suspected that I might be a member of the Home Army. She asked me if I had hidden anything that was incriminating in the apartment, to which I replied in the negative. I got dressed and returned to the living room, where...

  50. TADEUSZ ROSICKI (pp. 145-153)

    I will never forget February 25, 1941—two hours past midnight. Warsaw is asleep—a dark, gloomy night. A foreboding silence permeates the air .... I had gone to bed quite late and I had just fallen asleep. Suddenly, I am jolted out of my sleep by the sounds of steps made by heavy boots and then the shrill sounding of the door-bell. One . . . two ... three ... followed by violent banging on the door. I jump up, fully awake with a lightning-like thought crossing my mind. Gestapo! The banging continues. My mind springs to action.


  51. MARIA RÓŻAŃSKA (pp. 154-156)

    I was married to a regular officer in the Polish army. I had been a primary schoolteacher before my marriage. My husband came back to Przemyśl after fighting in the September 1939 campaign and later decided to go to Hungary. He succeeded with the aid of an official pass, which allowed him to go to Piwniczna, on the border with Hungary. I stayed in Przemyśl with my mother and four-year old son, living in the house we owned. We had a succession of people living there—Germans, a Czech, and aVolksdeutschfamily.

    I lived by selling off my possessions....

  52. ZDZISŁAW M. RURARZ (pp. 156-159)

    The German occupation of Poland has influenced my life dramatically. As a matter of fact, I still live in the aftermath of it. Living now in the United States, under the death sentence passed upon me in absentia after my defection as Poland’s ambassador to Japan, I can truly blame the war of September 1939 for all my miseries.

    I was nine years old when Poland was attacked by Germany on September 1, 1939. Evacuated from Pionki, near Radom, where I was born, I would not see the place of my birth again for thirty years.

    As for the occupation...

  53. EUGENIA ŚWITAL (pp. 159-161)

    My husband, Stanisław, received his medical degree in May 1939, three months before the outbreak of World War II. The war began at the time he was an intern in the Wolski Hospital in Warsaw. After signing up for service with the regional draft board, he worked from September 1 to November 1 as a physician in military hospitals in Lublin and in other localities.

    After his return to occupied Warsaw, he applied for work as a physician with the municipal Department of Health and Welfare. Nearly one month later, on December 10, he became a member of an underground...

  54. ELZBIETA SZANDOROWSKA (pp. 161-164)

    At the time of the German occupation, my mother, Janina Szando-rowska, took boarders in our apartment at 11 Wiejska Street. When the Germans created the so-called German district in Warsaw, we were forced to move out. We moved to 11 Wielka Street. My father, begin a Polish military officer, had to stay in hiding and lived at another address. My mother ran an eleven-room boarding house, and we gave shelter and help to many Jewish people. We provided them with food and false documents.

    As a rule, those living with us under assumed names did not leave the house for...

  55. KRYSTYNA SZOMAŃSKA (pp. 164-166)

    When I think about it, the German occupation was horrible. The Germans threatened us with the death penalty for so many things. Our lives were at risk all the time, but for some reason I was not afraid. My friend, Zofia Rontaler, and I both worked at the theatre in the Łazienki Palace and had a pass that protected us if we were caught in ałapanka(roundup). We were both in the Home Army. We did everything together.

    I remember a visit to my parents, who lived in Jasna. I limped along on my sprained ankle as snipers took...

  56. ZDZISŁAW SZYMCZAK (pp. 166-168)

    Before the outbreak of the war in 1939, I worked in Warsaw. Being a student at the Warsaw Polytechnic, I was a member of the Communist party, which was dissolved in 1938. During this time I had many friends and acquaintances of Jewish background who, during the time of the occupation, found themselves in the ghetto. This does not mean that my help to the Jews during the occupation was limited to people of leftist backgrounds. I was motivated above all else by humanitarian sentiments.

    The aid that I organized for the Jews had a three-fold character, first of all...

  57. Illustrations (pp. None)
  58. WENCESLAS WAGNER (pp. 168-175)

    Jadzia was one of several young Poles who during the German occupation lived a very intensive life. She differed from most of her peers in that she had access to a very roomy house, of pricelss value at the time of the conspiracy in which Jadzia and her circle spent most of their time.

    In the morning, she was an attentive student who took commercial courses at the Lipiński School. In the afternoon, Jadzia became one of the uncounted cogs in the Polish underground machine. In the evening, in the company of her friends, elated that they were still free...

  59. HENRYK WERAKSO (pp. 175-177)

    In 1941 Lieutenant Kacper Milaszewski, known by the pseudonym Lewald, began to organize the Union for Armed Struggle (later the Home Army) in the county of Stolpce (strictly speaking, the communities in the region included Derewno, Naliboki, Rubieżewicz, and part of Iwieniec). He selected me as his adjutant, in which capacity I served during the organization and early operations of partisan units under his command in the Nalibocki Forest (the Seventy-eighth Infantry Regiment and the Twenty-Seventh Cavalry Regiment).

    When we had our framework ready, we began to penetrate German offices and place our own people there, with the aim of...

  60. HENRYK WOLIŃSKI (pp. 177-181)

    From February 1, 1942, to the middle of January 1945, I was a soldier in the Home Army. I worked in the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the High Command. There I was in charge of the Jewish Office. My pseudonym was Wacław and later Zakrzewski, though within Jewish organizations I was always known as Wacław. The Jewish Office of the Government Delegacy was organized at the same time as the Jewish Office in the Home Army. The director of the Jewish Office in the Government Delegacy was Witold Bienkowski, of the pseudonyms Jan and Kalski, and his successor,...

  61. MARIA ZAGÓRSKA (pp. 181-182)

    During the time of the German occupation, I lived with my husband and three children in the Bielany section of Warsaw. We lived at 78 Szreder Street, next to a German airfield. From 1942 to the moment of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, eighteen people of Jewish background passed through my home.

    One of the rooms in the apartment was occupied by the Polish poet Tadeusz Holender. Mrs. Kott, whom we knew before the war, came to live with us in 1942. She came to Warsaw from Lwów. During her stay with us, she used the certificate...

  62. JANUSZ ZAORSKI (pp. 182-184)

    In 1939, I was evacuated with my family to Wilno. We crossed the Lithuanian border after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Since we were refugees, the Soviets automatically interned us. Because I was seventeen years old, the Soviets permitted me to live outside the internment camp and to continue my studies at the local gymnasium. From the beginning, I took an active part in the Polish underground movement, carrying messages back and forth between my father, who was commandant of the internment camp in Wilkowiszki, and the center of the underground movement in Kowno, as well as the Polish and...

  63. MARIA KONTOWICZ ZAREMBA (pp. 184-186)

    At the time of the German occupation in 1939, I worked as the administrator of several residences in the Praga district of Warsaw. In 1939, Mr. Mitelberg, a Jew who owned several buildings in Warsaw, came to me and proposed that I look after a house at 273 Grochowska Street that belonged to him. I agreed to the proposal. Not long afterward, eleven other Jews came to me with proposals that I administer residences that belonged to them. In this way I became the legally certified administrator with appropriately drawn documents that also served for German authorities.

    I had an...

  64. WITOLD ZŁOTNICKI (pp. 186-191)

    It was an autumn day in 1943, just before curfew. I was taking ammunition to a temporary storage place in someone’s apartment. As I entered the gateway of the building, a civilian armed with a revolver stopped me. In typically German fashion, he screamed at me to stand still and put my hands up in the air. I could see a few other people in the same posture. From the caretaker’s flat at the end of the gateway came shouting and screaming. It was obvious that a German-style interrogation was taking place. I stood very nonchalantly with one hand up...

  65. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 192-193)
  66. INDEX (pp. 194-201)

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