Righteous Ceremonies in Słupsk and Gdańsk

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 4th September 2018
Another eight Righteous have been honoured posthumously on 29th and 30th August in the Pomorskie Province. Medal and certificates were awarded to Katarzyna Baran, Anna Borek, Jan Gac, Walerian and Katarzyna Góra, Stefan and Antonina Piechota, as well as to Stanisław Podhaniuk. The ceremonies took place in the Municipal Offices in Słupsk and in the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk with the participation of the Righteous' families, Holocaust survivors and the cities' mayors, Robert Biedroń and Paweł Adamowicz.

We now realise that this was a heroic and brave act, but this was normal for my grandparents. They wanted to help people 

– Adam Gac, speaking during the ceremony in Słupsk

The ceremony in Słupsk took place in the historical town hall building with the participation of the Righetous' families, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari and the Mayor of Słupsk Robert Biedron.

Słupsk Deputy Mayor, Krystyna Danilecka-Wojewódzka, said: 

In our city, the memory of its pre-War inhabitants, including the Jews, is still alive. Each year, we celebrate the “Days of Jewish Culture”. Many years after the War, Isabel Sellheim returned to Słupsk. Sadly, we farewelled her just a few days ago. This German lady returned to her hometown and, over the years, restored the memory of the Jews of Słupsk.

Jan Gac's medal and certificate, from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, was presented by Ambassador Azari to the Righteous' only living daughter, Maria Purcha, who recalled, At the time, I was very young, but I remember those people. They were with us until the end of the War.

Jan Gac (born 1904) came to the Pomorskie Province after the War. During World War II, he lived in Pruchnik (Podkarpackie Province) with his wife Józefa and seven children. There, in September 1942, when the Germans began liquidating the local ghetto, he sheltered the Rozman family in the attic of his home. The Rozman family consisted of Jakow and his wife Brejndel (Bronia) and children Josef (born 1922), Cwi Hirsz (born 1925), Gitel (born 1928) and Rachela (born 1930). They ran a shop in the city. Thanks to the commander of the “navy-blue police”, they learned early about the liquidation of the ghetto. 

In January 1943, after a few months of hiding with the Gac family, the Rozmans decided to seek out a new hiding-place. Initially, they hid in the attic of the home of Maria Moskwa but, in September 1943, the woman asked them to leave. Jakow then proposed that the family split up. Josef with Rachela, Cwi with Gitel and Jakow with Brejndel then began to separately seek out hiding-places. Because the youngest, Rachela, did not want to be separated from her parents, she remained with them. All three again then found themselves in Jan Gac's home, where they remained until liberated by the Red Army in August 1944.

The remaining siblings perished while looking for hiding-places. To this dat, the circumstances surrounding their deaths are not known. In 1950, Jakow, Brejndel  and  Rachela Rozman emigrated to Israel.

THE CEREMONY IN GDAŃSK

One day later, on 30th August, a ceremony was held at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk. It was attended by the families of the Righteous, Holocaust survivors Matylda Antonina Bednarska-Wyszyńska and Lidia Dzwinka, Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz, representatives of the Gdańsk Jewish community and the Ukrainian Coinsul-General.

The event's host, ECS Director Basil Kerski said,

This is a special day for us. We are a cultural organisation which encourages open thinking about history and what can be learned from it. This place, the European Solidarity Centre, encourages people to be courageous. It shows that it is worthwhile being so, despite the fact that it can be difficult and not profitable. Solidarity was a meeting of different generations, including those who emerged from World War II, who experienced the Warsaw Uprising and who, as Christians and Catholics, experienced the murder of others, their neighbours, before their eyes.

In Gdańsk, honorary medals and certificates were presented posthumously to Katarzyna Baran, Annia Borek, Walerian and Katarzyna Góra, Stefan and Antonina Piechota, as well as Stanisław Podhaniuk.

During World War II, Anna Borek (née Mokrzycka) lived in Milatyń Nowy (Lwowskie Province) where, as a mother on her own, she raised her five-year-old daughter Irena and looked after her sick parents. In 1941, when the town came under German occupation, she took care of two-month-old Lidia Gruber, the daughter of a doctor from Stebnik near Drohobycz. The child had been brought out of the ghetto. When, in 1944, neighbours warned her that the Germans had taken an interest in the little girl, she decided to flee with the children and her parents. She then managed to obtain false papers for little Lidia. After the War, reunited with her husband, she unsuccessfully searched for the little girl's  relatives. It was only before her death that she told Lidia her true story.

Walerian Góra (1911–1989), Katarzyna Góra (1919–1971) and her mother Katarzyna Baran (1884–1967) lived in the village of Rata (Lwowskie Province). From 1943, when the local ghetto was liquidated, they extended help to the Wieller sisters – Lea Sara (born 1930), Ewa (1936–1996) and Edyta (born 1938), as well as to Helena Adler, whom they probably had known from before the War. For most of the time, they were hidden in a makeshift hideout in the attic of the Góra home and remained there until the War ended in 1944.

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During the War, Stefan Piechota and his wife Antonina (born 1912), together with their two children, lived in Sarny near Pińsk (Wołyńskie Province). In 1942, they helped Leontyna Teman (nee Shpurer, primo voto Fuchs - born 1909 in Chełm), whom they introduced to others as their cousin. Stefan was active in the underground while Leontyna, who spoke German, helped in the distribution of forbidden materials and in the acquisition of goods required by the underground.

The Piechota family also helped Sara Jospa (née Elstein, born 1922 in Pińsk), who was in hiding under the name “Jadwiga Korkowska”. She managed to obtain false documents from the father of one of the patients of her mother, who was a paediatrician in Pińsk. The Piechota family took Sara into their home for a short period and then helped her to find a new hiding-place. After the War, Leontyna left for France, while Sara returned to Pińsk and remained friends with the Piechota family until her death.

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Stanisław Podhaniuk rescued Ada Fuchs. He had already known her from before the War while studying at he Lwów Polytechnic. Their friendship quickly developed into a turbulant love. In 1941, when the Germans entered Lwów and Ada ended up in the ghetto, Stanisław decided to bring her out onto the “Aryan side”. He obtained false papers for her under the name of “Matylda Antonina Bednarska” and they were soon living together. They also gave shelter to her friends Irena Hertz and Tamara Branicka, also providing them with the necessary documents. 

Soon after, fearing being betrayed by a Volksdeutsch woman, Lewandowska, Stanisław asked his father, a teacher and school principal in nearby Kalisz, to provide Matylda with a hiding-place. After a few weeks living in the school, the girl moved in with Stanisław's distant family and then with family friends in Wygoda, where she remained in hiding until January 1944. Two years later, Stanisław and Matylda married, but divorced after a few years.

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Information regarding the bestowing, by Yad Vasham in Jerusalem, of the title of Righteous Among the Nations, the State of Israel's highest civil honour, can be found on our website: Yad Vashem criteria.