Reportage
Bogdan Musiał
Who would help the Jew…

Without Polish help, it would not have been possible for any of them to survive

kto uratuje-druk.indd

One of the greatest crimes committed by the Germans on the Polish population in retribution for assisting escaping Jews took place on December 6, 1942 in the Radom region, in the town of Stary Ciepielów (county Lipsko) and the neighboring village of Rekówka. Among the victims there were twenty children, the youngest seven months old. The course of this crime has been well documented. On that fateful day a group of German policemen came to Stary Ciepielów and surrounded three farm compounds, belonging to the Kosior, Obuchiewicz and Kowalski families. The Germans detained the owners along with their wives and children, and two runaway Jews. After a few hours they began to shoot the people. First murdered were the Kosiors and their six children, ages from six to eighteen, and the two previously mentioned Jews. The executions took place in the hay barn, which was then burned down. Then the Kowalski family was murdered, together with their five children, aged one to sixteen. The Obuchiewicz family followed with four children, aged seven months to six years. After the murders were committed, the Kowalski home was set ablaze and burned.
At the same time a different group of some ten German policemen arrived in the nearby village of Rekówka. They surrounded two farm compounds – one belonging to the Kosior family (relatives of the Kosiors from Stary Ciepielów) with their four children, aged two to ten, and the other belonging to the Skoczylas family. All those detained were herded into a barn, then shot and the barn burned. On that day the Germans shot a total of thirty-three persons in Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka. This included two adult runaway Jews. Word of this and other repressive acts echoed across the region and, as a result, few Poles would commit to assisting Jewish escapees.
On December 8, 1942, that is two months after the massacre in Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka, a group of German policemen arrived in the Boiska settlement (county Lipsko) during the morning hours. They came from their stationhouse in Lipsko and surrounded the farm compound where Wiktoria and Leon Kryczka lived with their two children and their relatives Barbara Stefanek and Józef Ciesielski. The policeman in charge allowed them to send the children to a neighbour’s house, after which the four adults were shot on the spot. Despite severe wounds Wiktoria Kryczka survived the shooting, but died two days later. The motive for this act was that the Kryczkas were allegedly hiding a runaway Jew, who, however, was not found during the search. The inhabitants of Boiska suspected that the Kryczka family had concealed an escapee from the ghetto. A conversation between two persons must have been overheard by an informer in a public place who then reported it to his German masters.

Excerpt translated by Peter Obst

Reportage
Bogdan Musiał
Who would help the Jew…

Without Polish help, it would not have been possible for any of them to survive

kto uratuje-druk.indd

Publisher: Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2019
Translation rights: Zysk i S-ka, anna.giryn@zysk.com.pl

Poland was the only country occupied by Nazi Germany where any help given to Jews was punished by death. This was stated in German law for the occupied territories. Poles did not have free choice as to their attitude toward their Jewish neighbors, because there were even cases of shootings for failure to report Jews, much less giving them any assistance whatsoever!
Bogdan Musiał, a historian, writes about all this in his latest book. Who would help the Jew… shows how insufficient the state of knowledge is about the Holocaust in Poland, how the relevant documents and archives still remain undiscovered. And these exist, refuting the thesis about the alleged cooperation of Poles with the Nazis in the process of exterminating the Jews. The author of the book makes use of German decrees and ordinances, but also recounts family stories known to him from the vicinity of Dąbrowa Tarnowska, where, among others, his grandfather, who fearing for the lives of his family, refused to shelter a Jewish girl. ‘Volksdeutsch lived in the village, and they would inform the Germans, and they would shoot me, my wife and children’, he recalled, stating the literal truth. This is evidenced by the crime committed against the Ulma family in the village of Markowa near Łańcut, where Germans murdered a Jewish family of eight found in hiding as well as those who gave them shelter: Józef Ulma, his wife Wiktoria, who was in her last month of pregnancy, and six children aged from one-and-a-half up to eight-years-old. The commanding officer of the German police, Eilert Dicken, did not receive any punishment for acts he committed in Poland; he continued his service in the town of Essens in the north of Germany. The occupation administrator of Łowicz, Dr. Heinz W. Schwender, continued his legal career in Germany after the war. Apparently, it did him no harm to sign a 1941 pronouncement reminding all that ‘the death penalty applies to anyone who assists Jews leaving the place of internment without the permission of the authorities, or otherwise aids Jews’ (original wording).

Even more significant is the fact that under these draconian conditions, and despite cases of betrayal by informers, about 100,000 Jews survived the German occupation in hiding on Polish territory, according to estimates by Dr. Szymon Datner from 1970. Without Polish help, it would not have been possible for any of them to survive.

Krzysztof Masłoń, translated by Peter Obst

Publisher: Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2019
Translation rights: Zysk i S-ka, anna.giryn@zysk.com.pl

Selected samples

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