Righteous Ceremony at POLIN Museum
"A man who could not read or write, but had a heart. He must have been a dood person”, said Róża Lipszyc nee Handelsman (b. 1929), a Holocaust Survivor who, during the ceremony, lauded Stanisław and Maria Jabłoński.
The Righteous Among the Nations presentation was organised, at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, by the Israeli Embassy. Participating in the ceremony were the Ambassador, descendants of the Righteous Among the Nations who were to be honoured posthumously that day, as well as representatives of the Polish Association of the Righteous - Anna Bando, Irena Senderska-Rzeońca and Alicja Schnepf. Guests were welcomed by the ceremony host, POLIN Director Zygmunt Stępińsk:
"Today's event is the sixth such ceremony to take place in the POLIN Museum. Its organisation is always of special importance to us. It is part of our mission - to protect and restore the memory of the history of Polish Jews. It is also part of the Museum's vision, in whch we declare our responsibility to display this multi-dimensional history as being alive and significant for the present day.
"This directs us to read the histories of the Righteous and the Jews, who were hiding with their help - to think about those who need help today and to actively support them. The events of recent months - the humanitarian crisis on the Poland-Belarus border and Russia's aggression against Ukraine - show that the values, represented by the Righteous, remain important and that their stories remain relevant today.”
By decision of the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" was posthumously awarded to Aleksandra and Michał Benedyk, Maria and Stanisław Jabłoński, Michał Cegielski, Feliks and Kazimiera Wiśniewski, as well as to Antoni and Weronika Stangret. Their medals and certificates were accepted by their descendants.
The Stories of Those Honoured as "Righteous"
"We believe that education about the Righteous", said Zygmunt Stępiński, "requires a good education about the Holocaust. This is why we present stories of help against the background of a broad historical context. We devote a great amount of space to presenting the realities of life in German-occupied Poland, discussing the complex and diverse attitudes of Polish society towards the Holocaust. We recall that the Rightous are honoured for their civil courage - for their attitude towards helping which, in those days, was something exceptional”.
Below are the stories of those honoured, posthumously, as Righteous, on 27th October 2022. Their full stories will be published here shortly.
Aleksandra and Michał Benedyk
Before the War, the town of Śniatynia had a Jewish community numbering 4,000 people, which constituted more than half of its total population. Following the outbreak of war, the area came under Soviet control. However, in 1941, it fell into German hands. A ghetto was then established. A year later, it was clear that it was to be liquidated.
It was then that Motl Sass decided to ask a Pole for help to shelter his family. The Pole seemed to be a trustworthy person, but he quickly changed his mind, tricked him amd ordered him to leave his house
The whole family managed to reach the house of Marek Baranowski, who offered them help and food. Unfortunately, Baranowski's neighbour soon became suspicious of the new guests, so that it was necessary to find another hiding place for them. The Sass and Epstein families, following Baranowski's instructions, hid amongst the grain in his field. Unfortunately, grandmother Feiga Sass did not survive the escape. Marek buried her on the spot. Fifty years later, the Sass family moved her remains to Jerusalem.
The families finally reached the home of Michał Benedyk, who knew them from before the War. Michał went a forester, whom he knew, who agreed to build a hideout in the Skałacki forest. There was a natural pit there and the men deepened and adapted it. Michał Benedyk delivered food to them, leaving it in a predetermined place. Into the help, he drew his brothers Jan and Józef, together with their families, as well as his own son Kazimierz. All three families shared the responsibilities and took turns in preparing the meals. The Benedyks' children recall that "they had to be silent and tell no one about the people who came to use to bathe. They were lean, numerous and always hungry".
Following liberation, the survivors remained in Skałat for some time. They then moved to western Poland and then left for Italy from where they emigrated to the United States. In July 1946, the Benedyk family had to leave all their possessions and also go deep into western Poland. After the War, the Sass and Benedyk families kept in touch by exchanging letters. Contact ended in 1968, when Paul Sass died tragically in the United States. It was only fifty years later that contact was re-establlished, thanks to the discovery of correspondence and with the help of the Yad Vashem Institute.
Maria and Stanisław Jabłoński
Lejzor and Dwora (nee Finkielstein) Handelsman lived ul. Grodzka in Lublin. They had three children - Icchak, Róża and Henia. In 1941, following the opening the Lublin ghetto in the Podzamcze district, the Handelsman family lost their apartment. They then left to go to their relatives in Osmolice, about 20 km from Lublin. For over a year, they lived in a wooden shed, in harsh conditions, earning a living by working for local peasants and from selling their pre-War possessions. On 13th October 1942, an order was issued that all Jews were required to leave the surrounding towns and go to Bełżyce. There, a selection took places. Men were separated from the women and children, who were told to go towards the station, from where trains to Sobibor departed.
During this march, Rózia's mother, sensing what was about to happen, said to her, "We're heading to our deaths, but I don't believe that the whole world has gone mad. Somewhere, there has to be someone who can help you. I can feel it. If you will live, then I will live". With these words, Dwora pushed her thirteen-year-old daughter to the side of the road. That day, for the last time, Rózia saw her mother, father and both her brothers. Róża began to run and, when one of the Germans stopped her, an onlooker confirmed that she was a Polish girl who had got lost.
She managed to get away and to reach a familiar farm in the village of Nowiny near Krężnica Jara, which belonged to Stanisław Jabłoński who, together with his wife, also helped other Jews. Rózia's maternal grandmother was staying in his house. Stanisław Jabłoński gave Rózia his daughter's baptismal certificate, so that she and her aunt, Róża Finkelstein, could try to go to work in Germany. He led them to the station in Niedrzwica and sent them to Lublin.
The twenty-one-year-old woman and her thirteen-year-old niece, as sisters "Leokardia and Helena Jabłonska", left to work in a factory. Throughout their time in Germany, they maintained contact with Stanisław Jabłoński who, as their "father" sent them letters and food parcels. To prevent this intrigue from being discovered, Stanisław Jabłoński sent his own daughters to work in other towns. He was often asked if his daughters had gone to Germany.
Following liberation, Rózia and her aunt ended up in a DP camp in Bremen. There, they were found by the sister of Rózia's mother who, with her son, had returned from Russia, where they had survived deportation to Siberia. Both sisters decided to go to America, but Rózia preferred to leave for Israel. She married and, after a few years, emigrated to Canada with her husband. Rose Lipszyc maintained contact with the Jabłoński family.
After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the Spektor family, from Zabokrzyki Małe in Wołyn, was forced to live in the Kozin ghetto. In October 1942, the four Spektor sisters received the news of the planned liquidation of the ghtto. They realised that they must flee and find a permanent hiding place. They had no specific plan nor any place to go. Initially, they spent the night in a forest, later going to Michał Cegielski, a pre-War friend, who had lived next toi them and who knew their father.
Cegielski was a poor farrmer, but he agreed to take them in, despite the very difficult living conditions. He excavated a bunker in the field behind the house. The girls could hide there and, the entire time, this is where he provided them with food. They could only leave their hiding place at night, when it was very cold. They hid in a pile of straw or slept in the house.
After around eight months, Michał Cegielski's son came to the bunker and informed the girls that Cegielski had been killed by the Ukrainians, who had come to rob him. They had also asked him if he was hiding any Jews. He denied it and did not betray them. The Spektor girls very quickly decided that it was better for them to leave and, soon, separated in order to increase their chances for survival.
Chajka, Rose and Eta survived the War, finding refuge with other families, However, Libbe perished in unexplained circumstances. The girls always carried Michał Cegielski in their hearts and always remembered his sacrifice. For years, they tried to locate his family, until eventually Chai succeeded.
Feliks and Kazimiera Wiśniewski
Frida-Peja Zilberman knew the Wiśniewski family from before the War. At the end of 1941, she came to them from the Warsaw ghetto, from where Feliks Wiśniewski's brother had transported her. For three years, she lived and hid in the Wiśniewski home. Due to frequent German searches, she also used the Wiśniewski barn as a hiding place. The Wiśniewski family treated Frida-Peja as a member of their own family. According to her survivor's testimony, the Wiśniewski family was also hiding the Frydman couple and their four children. However, no further information, regarding this, can be found.
Frida-Peja hid with the Wiśniewski family until liberation. When, in 1947, Feliks Wiśniewski was arrested by the communist authorities. she intervened on his behalf. Also, after the death of Kazimiera Wiśniewska in 1949, she tried to help the Wiśniewski family until her departure for Israel. From there, she maintained correspondence contact with the Wiśniewski family.
Antoni and Weronika Stangret
Krystyna Carmi (Sonia Zorger) lived with her parents and two sisters in Obertyn (now in Ukraine). Her parents rented an apartment from the Gawliński family, with whom they were very close friends.
After the Germans entered, for a certain time, the Zorger family stayed in the Kołomyja ghetto. But they soon left it, separated and hid in several different homes. Soon, Krystyna's uncle and both her sisters were discovered and were shot. The same soon also happened to the girl's parents. Krystyna managed to escape. She hid in the fields and in the forests, being helped by the local populace.
After many tribulations, Krystyna was found by Antoni Stangret, who placed her with the Gawliński family. However, after a certain time, she returned to the Stangret family, where she hid for several weeks, until the Germans entered their house. Fortunately, the uninvited guests, distracted by vodka, did not find the girl, who was hiding in the attic. Following this event, Krystyna again found shelter with the Gawliński family and then with Anna Kolankowska, where she lived until liberation.
According to Krystyna's memories, the Stangret family treated her with love. Antoni and Weronika also provided financial aid to to other Jews - Herman Wucher and Markus Willbach, both of whom survived the War. Krystyna Carmi now lives in Israel.
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Information about the procedure for awarding the State of Israel's highest civilian decoration - the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" - by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, can be found on our website: Yad Vashem Criteria.