"I have no other memorabilia from my grandparents. For that reason, this medal is priceless" – Righteous Medal Award Ceremony in Łódź

Mateusz Szczepaniak, 16 November 2016
One item on the program, marking the 72nd anniversary of the liquidation of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, was a Righteous medal award ceremony which took place in the Marek Edelman Centre for Dialogue in Łódź. During the ceremony, Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki, as well as Waleria and Marcin Świetlik, were posthumously honoured.

The last transport of Jews from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto left Radegast station for the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on 29th August 1944. The ghetto had lasted longer than any other in occupied Poland. On the 72nd anniversary of that event, ceremonies took place in Łódż in remembrance of the ghetto liquidation victims. The Righteous medal award ceremony took place at the Marek Edelman Centre for Dialogue, located near the park of the Holocaust Survivors, the monument of the Righteous and the Jan Karski bench.

In the presence of survivors from the Łódź ghetto, Marian Turski and Leon Weintraub, Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari presented medal and certificates to the descendants of Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki (Roksana Dejmanowska-Zemko and her daughter Slobodanką Zemko), as well as of Waleria and Marcin Świetlik (Dorota Janiszewska).

During World War II, Helena and Stanisław Podrzycki lived in Końskie (Świętokrzyskie Province). Helena was a housewife, looking after three children - Magdalena, Bohdan and Małgorzata. Her husband, Stanisław, was a judge and a lawyer. Over many years, they were close friends with the Jewish Kapilman family. When, in 1940, the Germans established a ghetto in the town, Abraham Kapilman gave them his medical books and other valuables for safekeeping. Helena repeatedly went to the ghetto, trying to help her Jewish friends.

On the day prior to the ghetto's liquidation in November 1942, Kapilman turned to the Podrzycki couple with the request that they save seven year old daughter, Bronia. Helena led the little girl out of the ghetto and hid her in her own home. While she was absent, another eleven Jewish escapees arrived at her home. They spent a few days in hiding there, while Bronia stayed for two weeks. Helena found shelter for the girl with her friends, the Grabiński family and later with Dr Litryńki. In the end, Bronia saw out the end of the War in a convent in Kielce. Of the Kapilman family, she was the only one to survive.     

Waleria and Marcin Świetlik lived in the village of Sietesz (Podkarpackie Province), where they ran a farm. They were especially active in the community, committing themselves to education in the village.

In 1942, Fajga Rosenbluth found shelter in their home. The girl had escaped from the ghetto in nearby Kańczuga. With her brother Eliezer, she had wandered around seeking help. However, in the end, they had to separate. Fajga, almost completely exhausted, stopped at the farm of the Świetlik family. There, she received help.

On 26th January 1944, the Germans entered the village looking for those who were assisting the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). They searched all the farms, including the Świetlik property. At that time, Fajga was hidden, standing, inside the backyard barn. Fortunately, she was not discovered and the Świetlik family survived the search.

After the War, Fajga and her brother left for the USA. For some time, she maintained in contact with her benefactors.

This story of help was recounted within the Świetlik family circle. Seeking proof of her father's story, the one living witness to the saving of the Jewish girl, Dorota Janiszewska came upon the Shoah Foundation collection of Holocaust survivor stories on the Internet. There she found proof of her grandparents' heroism in the form of the story of Fajga Rosenbluth.

During the ceremony, Dorota Janiszewska said, "I have no other memorabilia from my grandparents. For that reason, this medal is priceless. This is proof that they were extraordinary people."

The ceremony was hosted by the Marek Edelman Centre for Dialogue in Łódż. This year, it has begun a new education project aimed at young people in which post-secondary students in Łódź, under expert guidance, publish a quarterly magazine on Poles rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. Read more about this project.