Jews in Hiding on the “Aryan Side”

Occupied Poland – 15th October 1941 – the first ordinance was issued in which Nazi Germany forbids, under penalty of death, Jews from leaving ghettos and Poles from providing them with any aid. In the following months, similar regulations were issued in all districts within the General Government. They determined the further fate of Jews who had not, as yet, obeyed the order to move into a ghetto or who had risked reaching the “Aryan side” after being locked within a ghetto. In another text, devoted to the death penalty, we write, in detail, about the consequences of the German ordinance upon the inhabitants of the General Government for helping Jews.

The greatest wave of Jewish escapees from ghettos took place in the periods before and shortly after deportations, i.e., during “Operation Reinhardt” in 1942–1943. The aim of this operation was the murder, by the Germans, of the Jewish populations of five districts within the General Government (Warsaw, Radom, Kraków, Lublin, Galicia and, later, from the Białystok district also). Displacement meant the deportation of ghetto inhabitants to extermination camps, with some of the being murdered on the spot. In order to survive the Holocaust, Jews had to hide on the “Aryan side” or change their identity.

In this section, we discuss, in detail and in many aspects, the experiences of Jews hiding on the “Aryan side” during the German occupation of Poland (1939–1945). Using the studies by researchers, from various disciplines, we present the “strategies” of Jewish survival – the types and characterics of their hiding places in the cities and in the provinces. We present their individual stories, together with related artefacts from the collection of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. We also indicate permanent evidence of the Holocaust in contemporary Polish culture and present the research work, currently underway, to preserve such hiding places.

Strategies for the survival of Jews on the “Aryan Side”

“When a Jew found himself on the ‘Aryan side’, he had two options – to stay ‘above ground’ or go ‘underground’, wrote Emanuel Ringelblum. In order to survive during the Holocaust, Jews had to make dramatic decisions. To learn more, read the introduction to this setion.

Hiding Places of Jews in Occupied Poland

Jews, who were in hiding-places on the “Aryan side”, found themselves in physically, socially and symbolically limited spaces. What could have replaced a home for those in hiding? Read about the types of hiding-places and their characteristics.

Jews hiding in cities

Jews, who were seeking shelter on the “Aryan side”, often hid under assumed identities. Read about “Aryan papers”, a “good appearance” or the importance of knowing the Polish language whilst hiding in cities and towns within the General Government.

Jews hiding in the countryside

Jews hiding in the countryside were rarely able to remain in the one place. More often, there were episodes of permanent stays, interspersed with periods of wanderings, manhunts, chases, denunciations and escapes. Read about hiding in the countryside, in fields and in forests.

Jews hiding in cemeteries

The most dramatic stories of Jews hiding on the “Aryan side” include those which took place in Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish cemeteries. Read about the experience of living inside tombs, morgues and cemetery chapels.

The everyday life of Jews in hiding

Satisfying basic physiological needs such as nutrition and sanitation, as well as sexual, menstruation, pregnancy and abortion were integral parts of the lives of Jews in hiding on the “Aryan side”. Read about their daily lives.

Cupboard as a vestige of the Holocaust in Polish culture

A wardrobe was one of the many possible hiding-places in which Jews sought refuge. Their stories bring to mind specific experiences, as well as the places it occupies in Polish memory. Read about the manifestations of this permanent presence of the Holocaust in Polish culture.

Preserved hideouts of Jews in Poland

As of today, a few hiding-places, from the Holocaust period, have survived. Most of these places, such hiding-places, attics, basements, dugouts or countryside homes, no longer exist. Read the stories of selected hiding-places in Poland which have survived, despite the passage of several decades.

Architecture of hideouts from the times of the Holocaust

The issue of Jews in hiding has, for decades, appeared in various research contexts. However, little has been written about the architecture of these hiding-places themselves. Read about the ongoing research into the preserved sites of this type, among them being the hiding-place in the “Józef” oak tree.