Out of the Inferno
Poles Remember the Holocaust
Publication Year: 2013
" 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.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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As World War II drew to a close, I commanded the Świętokrzyska Brigade, which had made its way between the German and Soviet lines in Czechoslovakia. After months of hardship, my unit stopped in the small village of Vshekary, hoping to join the forces of General George...
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During the summer of 1939, I was away from Warsaw. Since I was a Boy Scout, I was mobilized into the Pomocnicza Sluzba 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...
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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 GrotRowecki, head of the Home Army. He signed the message with just the capital T within a circle, which stood for Tur, one of his pseudonyms within Home...
Zofia Rysżewska Brusikiewicz
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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 Kilinski Street in Old Town. The most important thing for this account is to describe the place where...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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One morning I heard a banging on my apartment door. I had allowed my apartment to be used by the Rada Pomocy Zydom (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...
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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...
Władysław and Władysława Dubik
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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...
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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...
Eugeniusz M. Folta
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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...
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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 Woznik, a short distance from the prewar German frontier, together with my mother, sister, and two brothers. I was the youngest...
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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...
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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...
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I lived in Stanislaw6w 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...
The Reverend Jan Januszewski
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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...
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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...
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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...
Bogusław Adam Kalinka
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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...
Edward Marcin Kemnitz
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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...
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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...
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In November 1939 I left Milanowek, where I had been staying with my mother since I escaped from the hospital at Zyrard6w. 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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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The event took place in Wolyn, on the outskirts of the small town of Rózyszcze. 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...
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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...
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I was fifteen years old when the war broke out. My father commanded the Third Light Horse Regiment. When the war started, they evacuated 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...
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I was walking along the street in Warsaw with some friends in November 1943 when I was caught in a lapanka (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...
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I was born in Piftsk, where my father was the headmaster of a high school. He came from Podhorce, east of Lw6w. 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...
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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...
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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...
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During the tim~ of the Warsaw Uprising, in August and September 1944, I was commander of the Palmiry-MXociny Regiment, one of the largest units of which was the Kampinos group, whose commander was Major Alfons Trzaska-Kotowski, known by the pseudonym...
Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski
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I was born September 3, 1921, in Lwow, 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...
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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...
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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...
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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 Przemysl 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...
Zdzisław M. Rurarz
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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...
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My husband, Stanislaw, 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...
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At the time of the German occupation, my mother, Janina Szandorowska, 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...
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In the immediate postwar period, Szandorowska was involved in hospital work. She later became a librarian, with a special interest in old books. She collaborated with Maria Bohomos in preparing a catalog of Polish collections 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 ...
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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...
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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...
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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, Rubiezewicz, and part of Iwieniec). He selected me as his adjutant...
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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 Waclaw and later Zakrzewski, though within Jewish organizations...
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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...
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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...
Maria Kontowicz Zaremba
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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...
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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...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013