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"He endured immense poverty and hardship in order to save me" - the story of Henryk Krueger

Henryk Krueger came from a wealthy Poznań merchant family. Right after the outbreak of World War II, the Germans forced him to leave his home city. Together with his family, he moved to Warsaw.

From the very beginning of the occupation, he helped the family of Bruhl, also a merchant. The blocking of bank accounts by the Germans had dramatically worsened that family's financial circumstances. Until April 1940, Krueger would bring the Bruhl family food. He later lost contact with them.

In 1940, during a walk in the park, he met two, young Jewish women - Minna Frydland and her friend Halina Wald. He became friendly with them. They kept meeting even after the women had moved into the ghetto. Henryk would visit Minna and Halina there, bringing them food for their families. After the ghetto was locked off, he used various strategies in order to get inside and to continue helping his friends.

In the summer of 1942, when the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto began, Minna's mother asked Krueger to find shelter for her daughter on the "Aryan side". Henryk not only helped Minna to get out of the ghetto and to hide, but he continued to help the rest of her family which was still inside the ghetto, smuggling in food for them. Shortly after, the Frydland family was deported to the death camp in Treblinka.

Henryk led Minna to  the court building on ul. Leszno - this building was situated on the border between the ghetto and the "Aryan side". For certainly, he became friendly with the court building's caretaker. The woman remained in the building throughout the day and, at night, together with Henryk and his friend, she left, pretending to be a court employee.

"We went out onto the Aryan side, accompanied by the caretaker, surrounded by SS, Gestapo, Latvians, military police and police", recalls Henryk. "We walked the length of ulica Biała to Plac Mirowski. It was neither a pleasant nor safe stroll”. Henryk found the girl a hiding place in Żoliborz and brought her false papers under the name "Wanda Mak". He brought her food and helped her financially.

Keeping the promise he had made to her mother, he continued caring for Minna the whole time. As he recalled after the War, "In the winter of 1942, she was discovered by agents of the Gestapo. I managed to get her released for a serious amount of money". He then helped Minna to find another hiding place and to organise a new set of documents for her under the name of "Maria Janina Burczyńska".

After the War, Minna stressed that "from that time, he had to go into hiding with me. He was unable to work and his only source of income was what he received from the underground. He endured immense poverty and hardship in order to save me".

Henryk continued to help her until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. Their paths then separated. At the beginning of the Uprising, the woman found herself away from her hiding-place and, due to the ongoing battles in the city, she was unable to return to it. Her friend Renata Kulczycka came to her aid. Renata's father was a soldier, pseudonym "Sas”. For a certain time, she remained with his unit. She then left Warsaw with a group of civilians. At that time, Henryk was in Milanówek.

Minna, hiding under her false name, was selected by the Germns, as a Pole, to go to a labour camp. From there, on 19th February 1945, she ended up working on a farm in the Thuringia town of Wahlwinkel, where she remained until being liberated by the American army. She was then put into the Landsberg Displaced Persons camp, where she met her future husband - a Canadian working for UNRRA. After a certain period, she emigrated with him to Canada and changed her name to Minna Aspler. She remained in contact with Krueger and his family and also helped them financially. She also visited him in Poland.

On 21st October 1987, Henryk Krueger was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

English translation: Andrew Rajcher

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009