The Dabrowski Family

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Story of Rescue - the Dabrowski Family

Before the War, with their two children, Wacław and Józefa Dąbrowski lived at ul Cmentarna 27 in Siedlce.

Siedlce was also home to the family of Israel (1881-1942) and Chaja Brener (née Gruszka) (1900-1942), with eight children. Among them were their sons Aszer (an architect), Natan and Mojżesz, as well as their daughter Mala (1931-1942). Aszer Brener was married to Bernard Czosnek's sister, Estera (1920-1943).

During World War II, the Czosnek and Brener families found themselves in the Siedlce ghetto, which was liquidated on 1st October 1941. Most members of both families had died in the ghetto or had been sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka in August 1942. The Jews, who were assigned to work or who had managed to survive in hiding, moved into the "Small Ghetto". Its inhabitants were transported to Treblinka in November 1942.

In 1941, Bernard Czosnek worked at the military airport in the Nowe Siedlce district, where about one hundred Jews from Siedlce worked as forced labourers.

While unloading coal, Czosnek became acquainted with Wacław Dąbrowski, a cart driver. As Józefa Dąbrowska recounted in 1988, “When rumours about the liquidation of the Siedlce ghetto started circulating, Bernard Chosnek [Czosnek] ran away. He planned to hide in the apartment of a couple whom he knew well. However, they refused to take him in”. According to Bernard's statement from 1989, he managed to escape from transport on the way to Treblinka in late 1942.

The Dąbrowski family welcomed Bernard despite their own difficult living conditions, a single room in the attic. As Mrs Dąbrowska wrote, “When he came to us, we took him in. He washed himself, was given clean clothes and a decent place to sleep”.

Several days later, to the Dąbrowski family, Bernard brought his brother-in-law Aszer Brener and his two brothers. During the day, the four men hid in a wardrobe in the corner of the room. “If someone came to see me during the day, they remained in hiding. But, at night, they slept normally on their pallets”, Wacław wrote.

Caring for the those in hiding was primarily Mrs Dąbrowska's task, She stated, “I washed their clothes and cooked for them, I had more shopping to do”. In his statement, Bernard Czosnek stresses that his protectors treated him as a member of the household. “Everything the Dąbrowski family did for my benefit was done selflessly”.

Even when Wacław Dąbrowski was arrested by the gendarmerie, his wife continued to look after those in hiding. As she wrote years later,“Sheltering them was simply a humanitarian impulse”.

When Mrs. Dąbrowska was seen buying more bread, it aroused suspicion in the neighbourhood, that she might be harbouring Jews. “German informers became interested in me”, she wrote.

On the evening of 13th February 1943 the Gestapo turned up at the Dąbrowski home. According to Czosnek, their visit was an act of revenge from the Volksdeutsche who were working at the airport and with whom Dąbrowski was in conflict.

Dąbrowski was not home at the time and Czosnek and Natan Brener managed to flee. Józefa was arrested. Aszer Brener, who was sick in bed, was shot, while his younger brother Mojżesz was killed in the yard while trying to escape.

The Dąbrowski children were taken to an orphanage, which was located in the same street. Mrs Dąbrowska was taken to the Pawiak prison, then to Majdanek and, finally, to the Ravensbrück camp.

Until liberation, Czosnek survived in the home of Konstantyn Chwedoruk in Ujrzanów . Natan Brener also survived the War and then moved to Israel. Bernard left for the USA, where he changed his surname to "Chosnek".

Leaving Poland, he was convinced that Mrs Dąbrowska was dead.

The parents of Bernard Czosnek - Malka Czosnek (née Ejnes) (1883-1942) and Pesach Czosnek (1883-1943), as well as his sister Estera, all perished in the Holocaust.

Bernard visited Poland in 1985. By  accident, Dąbrowska found out about his visit by accident: “He found out by telephone that I was alive and where I lived. The next day, he was in Siedlce and came to visit me”.

In 1995, the Yad Vashem Institute decided to honour Wacław and Józefa Dąbrowski with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations".


  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, 5378