"Lives Saved" Exhibition Opens in Gliwice

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 26 February 2018
On 25th February 2018, the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance in Gliwice was the venue for the opening of an exhibition entitled "Lives Saved. Residents of Górny Śląsk and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie helping Jews during World War II". It was prepared by the Katowice Branch Office of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and the Museum in Gliwice, in conjunction with the Brama Cukermana Foundation. The exhibition, created by Dr Aleksandra Namysło and Monika Bortlik-Dźwierzyńska, can be viewed until 31st August, which will be the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie.

The extermination of Jews in the pre-war Śląsk Province, which during World War II found itself within the borders of the Third Reich, accounted for almost 100,000 people (in 1941, the Upper Silesian Province was established which included the Katowice and Opole districts). As a result of the deportation of Jews from Górny Śląsk to Nisko nad Sanem in October 1939, to the eastern territories of the Katowice district bordering the General Government in the spring of 1940, as well as later deportations, the largest concentration of Jews in the whole of the Province during World War II was Zagłębie Dąbrowskie. Ghettoes were established in Będzin, Dąbrowa Górnicza and Sosnowiec in 1942. They were liquidated in August 1943, with the Jews being deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau, German Nazi concentration and extermination camp.

It was quietly whispered, "In such times, who would hide Jews?" – a witness to history

During the liquidation operations, fugitives from the ghettoes sought help on the Aryan side. It primarily took the form of individual help. To date, close to two hundred residents of Górny Śląsk and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie have been honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Twenty one stories of rescue have been selected to form the "Lives Saved" exhibition.

Director of Museum in Gliwice, Grzegorz Krawczyk, said, "The exhibition takes in the world of people with huge and steadfast hearts. It tells about their courage, faith, hope and love. It tells us what we should do to save what is most important to us. We see this from the perspectives of both the rescuers and the rescued. It talks about the fundamental, moral imperative which arises from sacrifice for another human being, about the sense and need to provide help".

Dr Aleksandra Namysło explained, "Our exhibition is not one which can be viewed comfortably. In order to view it, one enters black and white modules, created on a pattern of hiding places. What can be seen in the centre is the perspective of the people being rescued. The story of those providing help is shown externally to that".

Among the stories included in the exhibition are those of Karol Galbias, Wanda Hornik, Agnieszka Kaniut and Maria Kałuża, Mother Teresa Kierocińska, Dr. Tadeusz Kosibowicz, Leokadia and Maria Nawrocka, Genowef Pająk, Father Wincenty Mieczysław Zawadzki, the Dyrda family, the Florczak family, the Grzybowski family, the Kafarski family, the Kapic family, the Kobylc family, the Latos family, the Nowak family, the Prześlak family and the Turkin family.

My character is such that I cannot abide when innocent people are harmed – Karolina Kobylec

The exhibition is complemented by a room containing frgaments of nine letters, memoirs and stories of the rescued and the rescuers from the years 1943-1988. Among them is a letter, sent on 27th July 1943 from Dąbrowa Górnicza, by Tola an Nadin to their sister Ange, who was living in Canada. There is also the account of Franciszek Kaniuta, given to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw on 9th April 1966.

Dr Andrzej Sznajder, Director of the Katowice Branch Office of the IPN, stressed, "This is the third project concerning the Jews of Górny Śląsk and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie prepared by the IPN. In 2004, we published the book about the extermination of Zagłębie Jews. In 2012, we showed the Jewish community during the post-War years. Today's exhibition opening complements orur current activities".

Those who participated in the official opening of this exhibition included the Deputy President of the IPN Dr Mateusz Szpytma. Those present included descendants of the Righteous Among the Nations, local government representatives and representatives of the Gliwice and Katowice Jewish communities.

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The exhibition entitled "Lives Saved. Residents of Górny Śląsk and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie Helping Jews During World War II" can be viewed at the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance in until 31st August 2018.

It was prepared by the Katowice Branch Office of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and the Museum of Gliwice, in conjunction with the Brama Cukermana Foundation. Some source and iconographic material in the exhibition comes from the collection of the "Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History" project of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. They can be viewed on our website. 

See the Stories of Rescue Map