73rd Anniversary of the Death of Emanuel Ringelblum

Mateusz Szczepaniak, 10th March 2017
Emanuel Ringelblum, historian and author of the Warsaw Ghetto Underground Archive, died most probably on 10th March 1944. He was shot by the Germans in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. He had been arrested three days earlier, following the uncovering of the “Krysia” bunker in which around forty Jews were hiding. Together with those caring for them, Mieczysław Wolski and Janusz Wysocki, all were murdered.

 

When a Jew found himself on the Aryan side, he was faced with two possibilities – to remain on the surface or to go to ground. In the first instance, the Jew transforms himself into an Aryan, obtaining Aryan papers in order to live legally (...). In the second instance, a Jew with a semitic appearance either finds a hiding place or a hidden room and lives illegally”. This was written by Emanuel Ringelblum in an article entitled Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War”. He worked on it whilst in hiding on the Aryan side.

From the spring of 1943. He had lived in hiding, together with his wife Judyta and son Uri, under a greenhouse at 81 Grójecka Street in Warsaw, which had been organised by local gardeners, the Wolski family. From 1942, Mieczysław Wolski, his mother Małgorzata, sisters Halina and Wanda, and his nephew Janusz Wysocki, had been hiding Jews. It is estimated that, following the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Krysia” bunker had been one of the largest in occupied Warsaw.

 

On 7th March 1944, Gestapo officers, Polish criminal police (Polnische Kriminalpolizei) and Polish Police from the 23rd Precinct appeared in the yard of the Wolski home. According to Małgorzata Wolska, a witness to the event, the police burst into the house and went around to the greenhouse, under which around forty Jews were in hiding. All were forced to go out into the yard – first mothers with their children, and later the men. One of them, a lawyer Tadeusz Klinger, managed to swallow cyanide and died instantly. The others, together with Mieczysław Wolski and Janusz Wysocki, were transported to Pawiak prison and later, on 10th March, were shot amidst the ghetto ruins. To this day, the date and place of execution remains a contraversial subject. Małgorzata Wolska and her daughters survived. The greenhouse and the bunker were destroyed.

The circumstances regarding the discovery of the hiding place remain unclear. According to one version, Krysia, a former girlfriend of Janusz Wysocki, had reported the hiding place to the Gestapo out of revenge for being rejected by him. According to another version, it was Jan Łakiński, a blackmailer from Ochota and a member of the German-formed Wartime Search Division (Kriegsfahndungkommando), who denounced them to the Gestapo. In accordance with a decision of the Military Court of the Warsaw Division of the Home Army, on 30th March 1944, the Biuletyn Informacyjny” announced the he had been sentenced to death for collaborating with the occupier and for persecuting and hunting down Jewish citizens of Poland”. The uncovering of the "Krysia” bunker was most probably part of a larger operation aimed against Jews who were in hiding on the Aryan side” of Warsaw.

In 1989, the Yad Vashem Institute decided to honour the Wolski family and Janusz Wysocki with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Since 2009, Emanuel Ringelblum has been Patron of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, in which is stored his Warsaw Ghetto Underground Archive – a unique collection of documents used to research the genocide of Jews in occupied Poland. It has been registered by UNESCO. The events of March 1944 have been commemorated on a plaque which was unveiled in 1990. It is located on the home of the Wolski family at 81 Grójecka Street (today No. 77).

Learn more about Jews in hiding in occupied Warsaw through our virtual exhibition "The Right Address”.