The Jews and the Shoah
(related by Mrs Giedejko’s daughter) It was 1941. The Germans arrive. A Jewish family lived near my parents – the Lissons. My grandma was always warm hearted. And then all the Jews are taken off to the ghetto in Kovno, where they are shot – and in Kiejdany, too. The older members of the Lisson family have been transported to the ghetto, the younger ones were left – they were about 20 years old (one of them was called Chaim). Then there was Chaja Uszarów from Wędziagoła. They came to my grandparents asking them whether they could shelter them. Grandma did not refuse. At that time all my mother’s siblings lived in the house – two brothers and a sister – while my mother and father had their own cottage which was nearby. Yet the secret was so well kept – only they and my parents knew about it, no-one else from the family, not even her sister Janina who lived in Kowno. Her husband liked to gossip and he liked to have a drink... It was better that they did not know. The Jews were concealed in the cowshed, where the animals were kept. My grandparents made a false wall and they concealed them behind it. That was for day-time. At night and in the evening when all the windows were closed and nobody could see inside, they would bring them into the cottage where they could eat, wash and relax. And then they would go back to the cowshed for the day. This went on for 2-3 years. My grandparents saved them. After the war, the family was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal.
Ludwika Giedejko
[Drohobych, 1942] My mum was sick in bed, she couldn’t even eat on her own, and I had to feed her, because my father was already gone. A friend of mine said that if I wanted my mum to get up, I should go to the ghetto to fetch a doctor. Doctors were allowed to leave the ghetto, they walked with bands with a Jewish star, but they were not allowed to take anything with them. Gestapo officers wanted them to die of hunger. I went to that doctor, knocked on the door and said that I was from Mrs Brodnikowa. I said that I kindly requested the doctor to visit my mum. He came, looked at her, wrote down a piece of paper to a specific chemist and to a specific person who was to give me the medicine. He asked for a kilo of sugar and a kilo of flour instead. I came home and knew that my mum kept three kilos of flour and three kilos of sugar on the stove. I asked if she would give me a kilo of each, so that I could go and take it right away. Mum said I couldn’t carry everything at a time, it’s better to take sugar first and then the flour. And a small baby was crying and waiting there … I went with sugar first and said that I’d bring the flour the following day, because I was scared. If I’d got caught with that in the ghetto, I would’ve been executed by firing squad together with the Jews. When I took him the sugar, the doctor asked if I had bought injections. I said I did and he came back once again and gave my mum an injection. Then, I took that flour to him and I had no more contact with that doctor. Because it was like that, that you never knew when the Germans were going to make a raid. It was dreadful, it was inhuman, how they behaved.
Wiktoria Kisiel
[Drohobych, the 1940s] One Jewess was shot dead next to our fence. She was dressed like a Gypsy, and they were escorting a group of Jewesses. They were beautifully dressed in fur coats, patent leather shoes and were going to the brickyard to work. They clearly were women doctors, engineers, they were not as simple as the ones who were standing at the marketplace selling things. And she was going in the yard across from them. And the Jew who was in the Jewish militia told the Gestapo officer about her. I couldn’t hear what he said, we watched them with my mum though the window. The Gestapo officer went and called her by her name. She went off the yard, the Gestapo officer took her by her arm, sat her down under the fence, held her arm with one hand and took out a gun with the other and shot her dead. If it hadn’t been for that Jew the Gestapo officer wouldn’t have noticed her, she was like a Gypsy. Before she died she was screaming in Polish: Johan, Johan, I left three children and went to get them a little piece of bread home. Johan, you are my cousin, how can you be like that? And mum said to me: Have a look, we always believe that the Jews are tightly-knit, that they are together, that one will not turn another in. Look, what he’s done. Later on, those men who were in the Jewish police were shot dead at the Jewish cemetery.
Wiktoria Kisiel
The Germans drove the Jews to Braslav and shot them dead there. They undressed them and gave their clothes away. People undressed them, ow! And one Jew, an acquaintance, Snejka was his name, a nice Jew, he sewed everything. He came running to Braslav, naked, from the cemetery. When they were undressing them and throwing into a hollow, he jumped out and ran away, but they caught him again and shot him dead. Because of that fear he did not remember where he was going or what …God forbid, they shot down so many of them. Innocent, poor, little ones. The Germans shot them all down. Plenty, plenty of them …the whole street, they were Jews. Some of them hid at other people’s homes and remained alive. In Urbany there was a tiny cottage, an old lady lived there, and this cottage is no longer there for a long time. The Germans would not go there and she brought up a Jew. And as long as she was alive, they were sending her gifts from America. Poor Jews, to go to death like that …We felt sorry for the Jews, we were crying, crying that they had shot them down. What could you do? There was a Jewish cemetery where the secondary school building is standing now. When the Germans came they took all the stones away. When the Soviets came, the graves could no longer be seen and they built a secondary school building and a canteen on the site of the cemetery. We often said that the secondary school building and the canteen was standing on the bones. When they were laying the foundation there they dug up bones, heads. The children were running around and found a Jewish head there and put it on the road and started to laugh. Oh my, good God, what that war has done …
Janina Mickiewicz
There were many, very many Jews in Braslaw. And the Germans stayed to dig hollows. Big hollows. And people didn’t know why. And these were all hollows for the Jews. They were driven to those hollows. The Germans were standing with their sub-machine guns and people were falling to the hollows by themselves, all by themselves. And then, they chopped them up with those sub-machine guns, and people filled those hollows in. It was like that.
Jadwiga Sadowska
Our buildings stood here; there were a couple of Ukrainian families and here almost all the houses were Jewish. My elder sister only had Jewish friends, with whom she would play and all that. When they set up the ghetto, father and mother would often go to the village to exchange foodstuffs so that we might have something to eat. Sometimes we would be left alone – without our parents. And when mother and father brought anything home, then my sister would immediately stuff her pockets and rush off to the ghetto to her friends. Once they caught her at it. They stopped her and took her to the police station. Luckily a friend of father’s was there at the time and he asked her: “Stefa, what are you doing here?” “I don’t know, they brought me here...” And she was let off thanks to him. My mother kept a Jewish family hidden away under the stairs in our house for a week, or so. Then, when she heard that we could be executed for harbouring Jews, she asked them politely to leave… And they did leave, during the night. I have no idea where they went. The next day, however, [the Germans] herded some Jews along our street. I don’t know, there must have been some 500 of them. They were probably going to be executed because they were headed in the direction of the lake. Behind the playing field over there, there was a spot which was marshy. As the Russkis advanced and the Germans withdrew from Stanisławów, they would throw their gas into those marshlands, right into the centre. There was a bluish sort of gas there until recently, it never disappeared. Behind that lake is the Jewish cemetery. My sister would often play there, she used to take potatoes to the Jews who hid there.
Zofia Stecka
dotyczy także: Okupacja niemiecka,
[Dokshytsy, 1940s] The ghetto was here. There were many people inside. All the Jews who did not run away were taken there and killed. Our neighbour Hirsze, a Jew, came to us and said: Well, Mr Swarcewicz... Now, God’s will will be fulfilled... I have nothing against it, because my forefathers said that Lord Jesus’ blood would be on us and our children. Now, Lord Jesus’ blood will destroy all those Jews who are here. You will see.
Wanda Swarcewicz
[Dokshytsy, 1940s] A Jew, Bersohn, the one who lived nearby our place, survived, because he was in the settlement of a member of the Orthodox Church, his name was Malta. He came back, but nobody gave him back what he had left to be kept for him. He came to us and said: Maybe you could share something, I’ve got nothing to eat, I’ve got nothing to drink... I took potatoes, rye and barley to Janowski, and he didn’t give me anything back. Maybe you give me something? He sorted it out with my daddy. And when my daddy died and there was nothing to make a coffin from he asked me: Why are you crying? I said that my daddy died. – Your daddy was already old, and you need to work and not to cry. – How not to cry, if there are no boards for the coffin? – Who is making the coffin? Targoński? Tell him to come to me; I will give him the boards. – I have nothing to pay with for the time being. – We will sort it out with you. And later I was going to his farm to reap, I was digging up potatoes. I worked off everything for those boards.
Wanda Swarcewicz
During the war their fate was terrible. In Berezvech, where we lived, they took away all the Jews. They threw kids into a hollow, alive! And then earth. There was such a hollow, on the right – the Poles were buried, on the left – all Jews. People everywhere, 29,000. I remember them saying that when they buried those people, the blood was flowing through the earth for three days. There was a ghetto in Berezvech. And when people threw a piece of bread and the Germans saw it, they fired, you were not allowed to, and they killed. I was still small, but I know where it was. And I know where they are buried. Now there’s a memorial standing on that place. There was a bishop, he was consecrating. He came from abroad, from Poland. Maybe in 1981 or 1982. Here in Miory they gave shelter to the Jews. Nomkin for example, he was a Jew, he had a brother. And there were two sisters, Roman-Catholic women. They sheltered them in the woods. They converted into the Roman-Catholic faith, were baptized. One sister and the other sister married those Jews. One of them lived to be ninety. He was always going to church, to confession, to Holy Communion, that Jew. I knew him well. He died not long ago, his family is living. His children keep going to church and his grandchildren, too. All of them learned. Both were baptized, but the other one was kind of non-believer. They protected them as they could. Gave shelter everywhere. In the garden, in the basement. If they only could, in the forest. They were hiding them and bringing food to them, if they could. If, God forbid, Germans learnt, they burnt the whole family right away, killed them. They shoot whole families to death. There was a priest in Hlubokaye who was hiding Jews. I remember still in Braslaw, a woman was working at Father Świątek’s, and she was hiding Jews. They left for America, they always sent parcels. Now, they are dead. There were also such old ladies, Milcia and Jadwiga. They kept Jews. And the Jews gave a house to those two sisters. But there weren’t any Jews nearby our place. Most of them were in Hlubokaye.
Teresa Szymko