Story of rescue

enlarge map

“He encouraged to fight against the occupier not only by singing”. The Story of Mieczysław Fogg

During the years of German occupation, Mieczysław Fogg, one of Poland’s most popular singers and composers, extended help to his Jewish friends from the artistic community. During the Holocaust, he used his own Warsaw apartment to hide, among others, the musical director of the “Qui pro Quo” theatre, and his family, as well as an employee of “Syrena Record”, the largest recording company in the Second Polish Republic.

He was the most popular performer of the hit “This is the Last Sunday”. The song, about a happy ending, was written in 1935. Mieczysław Fogg sang it on the stages of Warsaw’s cabarets. His career began in the “Dana” Choir, on the stage of the “Qui pro Quo” cabaret theatre. Each year, he would record over one hundred songs, accompanied in concerts by, among others, Hanka Ordonówna and Adolf Dymsza. In 1938, he was the first Polish artist to perform on  the, then experimental, Telewizja Polska (Polish Television). Among the artistic community, he had many Jewish friends. 

“In those contemptible years, when the Nazi regime condemned the Jewish people to extermination, he, Mieczysław Fogg, did not remain passive towards those crimes. He encouraged the Warsaw insurgents to fight against the occupier not only by singing, but he also saved his friends – Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto”.

– the farewell to the singer in 1990, Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

Inciting Poles – Artists in Occupied Warsaw

At the beginning of the German occupation, Mieczysław Fogg (real name: Mieczysław Fogiel), just as other artists, had to give up his profession. When the underground Union of Polish Stage Artists permitted singers to perform in cafes, he began earning money by singing at “Café Bodo”, “Swann”, “U aktorek” and in the “Lucyna” coffee shop – a place mostly run by Warsaw artists who, during the occupation, found themselves in difficult financial circumstances. 

During one of his performances, when Fogg was performing the occupation hit “Beloved, I Will Return”, a Gestapo officer, sitting in the audience, accused him of inciting Poles and threatened to have him shot. Following this incident, the Gestapo summoned the artist for interrogation at their headquarters on Aleja Szucha. His apartment, at 69 Koszykowa Street, came under observation. When the issue had settled down, Fogg involved himself in the life of the underground. He co-organised secret classes for students of the Stefan Batory High School. 

“Qui pro Quo” – Hiding the Wesby Family

In his apartment, he hid Jews who had escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto. Before the war, Iwo Wesby (real name: Ignacy Singer) was conductor and musical director of the “Qui pro Quo” theatre. In the ghetto, he led the “Femina” orchesta, one of several local theatres there. In 1942, together with his wife Lola and eight-year-old daughter Olga, he escaped to the “Aryan side”

After the war, he wrote:

“My friend Mieczysław Fogg helped me, my wife and my daughther […], which meant that he saved our lives. In gratitude […], knowing that Mieczysław Fogg intended to launch a gramophone recording studio, in 1945, I offered him […] the machines and the cameras that I owned”.

Fogg noted: “Fortunately, the Wesby were saved and, after the Wr, I met tem in Vienna, where I was singing in 1947 and in the United States in 1949”. 

On a Sinking Ship – Helping Other Jews From the Artistic Community

Fogg recalled others whom he had helped along the way. Most perished: 

“[…] until the liquidation of the ghetto, I gave meals to a boy 8-9 years old, as well as lunchboxes for his sister, which the boy took to her. […] until the Uprising, I also gave meals to the outstanding Vocal Studies Professor Stanisław Kopf, pseudonym ‘Głowiński’. From the Uprising, contact was broken. […] Another friend,Stanisław Tempel, came to me after the closure of the ghetto. He had been a recording engineer at the ‘Syrena Record Company’. He had crossed the border from Vilna, where he had been hiding and had returned because his missed his family. He stayed with me for a few days and, despite my warnings, he went to the ghetto and I never saw him again. […] another friend, Ignac Zalesztain [Zalcsztein – red.], telephoned me. He was hiding somewhere behind a wardrobe”.

Zalcsztein was hiding in the tenement caretaker’s apartment and Fogg provided him with food. He also helped the Gliksberg family:

“[…] my son Andrzej attended the Gurter private primary school. Stefan Gliksberg, the son of Dr. Henryk Gliksberg, was his good friend. Apparently, Dr. Gliksberg was a member of the "Judenrat”. We corresponded throughout the occupation. Their other son, Tadeusz, escaped from a transport to Treblinka and was in hiding with his friend on Emilii Plater St. and with me. At his urgent request, I gave him some money [illegible – ed.] at the Hotel Polski. [I recieved – ed.] a card from him from a town near the Swiss border and that was all. […] Writing to Dr. Gliksberg, I offered to help him. He told that he was not a rat deserting a sinking ship”. 

16,000 Concerts – the Fate of Survivors After the War

During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Fogg sang for the fighters and for civilians. In total, he gave 104 performances in shelters, field hospitals and barricades. 

After the war, he lost nothing in popularlity. Already, by 4th March 1945, he opened Café Fogg at 119 Marszałkowska St., one of the first cafes in ruined Warsaw, which he opened by singing the popular song Piosenka o mojej Warszawie (A Song About My Warsaw). For a short period, he also ran his own record label – “Fogg Record”. 

Over his more than 60 year career, he gave 16,000 concerts in 32 countries. He always returned to Warsaw. His great-grandson, Michał Fogg, at whose initiative CD remixes and other rearrangements of his songs were released, said:

“[…] I’m convinced that he would be the first to say that he was a Varsovian first and then a Pole”.

On 26th October 1989, a few months prior to his passing, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem honoured Mieczysław Fogg with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area