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"I Went to the Priest, I Took My Birth Certificate and We Left the Town" - the Story of Antoni Rychlik

The five-member Jewish Erdman family lived in the village of Biskowice near Sambor. Their near neighbours were the Rychlik family. The families were in close contact and their children would spend their free time together.

In the summer of 1942, the Germans ordered all the Jews in the Sambor region to move into the ghetto established there. Icchak Erdman, a young boy at the time, managed to avoid the round-up and went into hiding. His parents and two sisters were not so lucky. They were forced to leave their home town and move to Sambor. At that time, Icchak began searching for somewhere to hide. Antoni Rychlik came to his aid. He agreed to hide the boy, despite the enormous risk which he and his family faced. At the time, he, his wife and four children lived on a farm.

During the following three months, the Rychlik family gave Icchak a hiding place and provided him with food. At that time, the Germans were conducting a manhunt in the area, looking for Jews who had not moved into the ghetto. There was also the danger of being betrayed by one of the neighbours who knew Icchak from before the War. After three months, the Rychlik family acknowledged that it was too dangerous to continue hiding the boy. However, they did not want to leave him without support. So they agreed to leave Biskowice together and go to Zdrochec, not far from Tarnów, where Bronisław Król, the boy's childhood friend, lived.

Antoni asked his son Jan, Icchak's age, to accompany his on the way. "At the time, I was sixteen years old. I went to the priest, took my birth certificate and on 6th December 1942, at around 5:00 am, we left our town. We reached Tarnow on the same day. It was already evening. I wanted to go in the direction of Żabna, but there was no one to help. It would be necessary to wait until morning at the Tarnów railway station", recall wspominał Jan.

In case they were questioned at the Tarnów railway stationie, in order to increase Icchak's chances of survival, Jan gave him his birth certificate, leaving himself without any papers. Both boys  successfully reached the village of Zdrochec, where Bronisław Król was waiting for them.

Under the name of Jan Richlik, Icchak found work with Polish farmer Andrzej Padko. It was physical work on the farm. Bronisław Król helped him to obtain papers to certify that he was a Pole born in the village of Biskowice. Moreover, he warned him when Germans came to the village. He also protected against being denounced as being Jewish. From time to time, he also helped him materially, bringing him food. Icchak Erdman hid in Zdrochec for two years, until the end of German occupation.

After the War, he changed his name to Ignacy Erdman and lived in Dzierżoniów. He became a professional soldier. He married and had two sons and, in 1957, he left for Israel. They remained in contact until Antoni Rychlik passed away.

On 5th September 1985, Bronisław Król and Antoni Rychlik were posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział dokumentacji odznaczeń Yad Vashem, Akta sprawy Antoniego Rychlika, 349/24/327
  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem, 3253; 3253a