Abramow-Newerly Igor

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“I believe that one day, I will rise on a hill near Jerusalem” - Igor Abramow-Newerly

Born into a Polish-Russian family, Igor Newerly was well-educated, having studied law and pedagogy. During the inter-War period, he was a social activist around Warsaw, through which he met, among others, Janusz Korczak (real name Henryk Goldszmit, a Jewish doctor, writer and social activist). In 1932, he became foundation editor of Korczak’s newspaper, “Mały Przegląd” (The Little Review). He also made his debut as a journalist, writing under the name “Jerzy Abramow”.

Following the outbreak of World War II, he began to look for a source of income. Newerly re-skilled himself both as a glazier and as a carpenter. He found work in Warsaw’s Construction Co-operative. Between 1940 and 1942, he managed units of young carpenters for the Protective Services Council in Żoliborz. In 1942, he established the Carpentry-Toymaking Work Co-operative. Apart from his paid employment, he was active in the resistance and participated in the production of arms for the underground forces. His level of activity is quite surprising considering that he, himself, was disabled. Due to an amputation, he wore a prosthetic leg.

Disregarding regulations and prohibitions imposed by the German occupiers, Newerly continued to retain cordial relations with Korczak and others linked with the “Mały Przegląd”. Even when they were forced to move into the ghetto, those relationships remained unchanged.

Kazimierz Dębicki, Newerly’s friend from the underground, recalls, “As a confederate of Korczak’s in the orphanage and as Chief Editor of the Old Doctor’s publication, he felt it his duty, from the moment that the invaders established the Jewish area in Warsaw, to help, not only Korczak and his co-workers headed by Stefania Wilczyńska, but also the orphaned children on Krochmalna Street. He also considered it to be his moral duty, as much as he was able, to help his former “Mały Przegląd” cohorts.

When the ghetto gates were sealed, he intensified his efforts to help Janusz Korczak and those under his care. Not only did he send them food and funds to run the orphanage, but, through various strategies such as using false papers, he managed to visit them in the ghetto.

Between 1941 and 1942, several former publishing co-workers found shelter in his home. Among those to spend the night there were Jakub Hersztajn and Renia Herszenfus. Newerly risked not only his own life, but also the lives of his wife and his small son. Such aid was particularly vital during the autumn-winter period, when conditions in the ghetto became more severe than during other seasons. After a certain time, both Jakub Hersztajn and Renia Herszenfus returned to their families in the ghetto.

Newerly also helped another former publishing co-worker Lejzor Czarnobroda, who had managed to escape from a German transport heading for the Treblinka death camp. However, while trying to escape from the train, he had broken his leg. When Newerly heard of this, he helped the man to return to Warsaw, provided his with shelter and cared for him. When Lejzor’s condition improved, Newerly found him a hiding place with a friend in a village near Kazimierz nad Wisłą. Due to Lejzor’s “bad appearance”, he had to remain in the hiding-place, which was difficult for him to withstand. So, one day, his carers worked out a way for him to come out for short strolls, which he would do frequently. He never returned from one of those strolls. Most probably, he had been stopped by a patrol and then murdered.

Igor Newerly was arrested by the Gestapo at the beginning of 1943 and ended up in Pawiak prison. One of the reasons for his arrest was an accusation that he had been helping Jews. Following a brutal interrogation, he was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin. During the course of the occupation, he also spent time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sachsenhausen and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.

With the end of the War, he returned to Poland where he established the Committee for the Honouring of Janusz Korczak’s Memory and was also politically active. Then came the most creative period in his writing career with works such as Pamiątka z Celulozy, Leśne Morze and Wzgórze Błękitnego Snu, through which he permanently inscribed himself into the annals of contemporary Polish literature.

On 26th October 1982, he was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. During the ceremony, he said, “I believe that one day, I will rise on a hill near Jerusalem, in the company of those dearest to me, humming a joint greeting of brotherhood and aid”.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.