Misiuna Wladyslaw

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Poetry Written for Those Condemned in the Holocaust. The Story of Władysław Misiuna

During the years of German occupation, Władysław Misiuna worked as the supervisor of a rabbit hutch on the premises of the warehouses of the Fabryka Broni (Arms Factory) in Radom, where a branch of the Majdanek concentration camp (KL Lublin) had been established. At his request. Jewish women from the liquidated Radom ghetto were brought in to take care of the rabbits. Misiuna took care of them during the Holocaust. He provided them with food, medicines, cleaning products and, above all, he supported them spiritually and morally - he wrote poems for them.


"I was born in a city where close to 30% of its residents were Jewish", said Władysław Misiuna about pre-War Radom

"My family and I were friendly with them despite the religious and traditional differences. We treated each other as humans. Our co-existence was often disturbed by drastic manifestations of antisemitism, which I had been struggling against since childhood. This was the reason for my conflicts at school, schools which I had to change frequently. Perhaps [...] these circumstances also influenced my determination to rescue Jews from the Holocaust”.

Pinkus the Tailor's Family - Help for Jews in the Ghetto

Before the War, Zygmunt and Eleonora Misiuna, and their sons, lived as neighbours with the family of the tailor Szmul Pinkas.

"It was a poor district. […] There were lots of children around my own age. […] Dawidek always held my hand and I his - we went everywhere together, we played together”, Władysław Misiuna recalled in an interviewe for the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 2017. 

When the War broke out, he was fifteen years old. A year after the city had been seized, the Germans forced the Radom Jews to move into two closed-off districts. The Pinkus familywent to the sall ghetto in Glinice.

"Together with my young brother, [...] we would go into the fields. [...] We stole potatoes, onions - whatever we could find  [...]  and took them to the Pinkus family. [...] There is a guard and a sign [...] 'Trespassing means death'. [...] How do we get in there? [...] It was ulica Kośna, where there were gardens all the way to ulica Wrześniowska [...] – I jumped over the bushes.” 

The brothers provided the Pinkus family with food, hygiene products and medicines during the time of the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1942:

"One day, I'm crossing ulica Biał, where there was a brickworks. I see a huge fire. […] I stopped, […] ask people what's going on there? They're burning  Jews. […] They burned them!” 

The Rabbit Hutch - Helping Jews from the Camp

In the Radom Fabryka Broni, one of the largest and most modern industrial plants in the Second Polish Republic, his uncle arranged for Władek's employment. Before the War, the factory produced the "Vis” wz. 35, the best Polish pistol. However, during the occupation, it was taken over by the German arms industry.Władysław, at the time a seventeen-year-old boy, became the overseer of the rabbit hutch. "They  were rabbots for the Eastern Front”, he said. 

The rabbit hutch was located in one of the factories' warehouses, on the grounds of the forced labour camp on ul. Szkolna, which held some of the Jews from the liquidated ghetto and from a town in the Kielce area. In January 1944, it was transformed into a branch of the Majdanek concentration camp (KL Lublin), and its command was taken over by SS-Obersturmführer Wilhelm Siegmann. During this period, the camp held around 2,500 prisoners: 

"On the other side of the tracks. [...] There was a large area of land, [...] and there, there set up a camp, a barracks, a guard-tower. [...] From the railway line, they brought Jews to  the factory from the camp, to work two or three shifts. [...] Separately, there was a forge, separate a large water pool, [...] auxiliary workshops.A few Poles, a few Jews worked there. [...] At one, I almost lost my life. I enter the factory and from afar, he calls, 'Władek, throw me a piece of bread.' I threw it and a nasty Gestapo officer, a German, when he caught me, he beat me [...] and threw me over the fence." 

At Władysław's request, several Jewish several Jewish women was accepted to help in the rabbit hutch. Among them were Rachela Micmacher, Dworka Zalcberg and Zofia Stopnicka-Marmurek.

'I needed people [...] to feed [ed: the rabbits. [...] The rabbits are very shy and react to people. [...] There were a lot of women, also Jewish women, who worked outside. There was a place 0 between one warehouse and another - where they brought me products. And people were needed there also”.

Poetry - "Moral and Spiritual" Support for the Jews 

The boy looked after the women. He arranged food, medicines, cleaning products for them, and supported them "spritually and morally” - he wrote poems for them on scraps of waste paper, which he occasionally signed with the pseudonym "Dawid Drewin”. Some of them have only survived in the memories of the Holocaust survivors.

"The head of the consumer [ed: rabbit hutch] was a sympathetic Austrian - Ursprung. […] He said, 'Tell me what you want. I'll handle it'. […] Sometimes I asked for milk. 'Pregnant women must have a little milk. They also need a little lettuce'. And he arranged such things for the workers, for others, even though there was none for the Germans”.

Milk became the subject of one of Władysław's poems, Marzenie o szklance mleka (A Dream of a Glass of Milk), written for the rescued in January 1944, which was published in the volume "Oko Nocy” (The Eye of the  Night") in 1990.:

"Frosty ice
Your legs twisted in rags.
Holes in your shoes
Tied with strings
Frost on you face
and frost on your white stripes.
The hoarse tone of your voice
The hands turned red.
Although you shiver with the cold
There is a smile on your face
Because you dream about
what might happen.
You dream of a glass of milk
from your mother's good hands
Which is waiting for you
and for those in the circle of your loved ones […]”

Active within the factory was an underground cell of the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Armed Struggle Union), and then of the Home Army. Władysław was also active in the underground:

"[…] it was no less important an activity, […] it was a way to acquire and ensure the flow on information about the situation of the Jews in the camp and in the factory and, in particular, about any current threats to the existence and lives of those imprisoned and isolated […]. This was the reason for my involvement in the resistance movement. The prisoners in the rabbit hutch might have guessed about it, but they didn't know for certain”.

As part of the underground, Władysław kept the records of the local Jewish cemetery, which was destroyed by the Germans.

"We changed into German uniforms, to get me from Wesoła to the Jewish cemetery”. Using the camera which he had, he also photographed his helpers. "I took photos of the Jewish women who worked with the rabbits. I wonder as to how I could have done such a thing? […] I didn't even know the names of all of them and I wasn't interested, because it could have been incriminating”. 

The Liquidation of the Labour Camp in Radom

The Germans liquidated the camp in the summer of 1944, during the Soviet offensive:

"[…] they drove everyone out to Auschwitz and my co-workers went with them. […] They told me that, earlier, they had gathered all the Jews in the square, […] and they had to leave the rabbit hutch. […] I go there and they had already forced them out. […] I took my bicycle and asked people in which direction they went and I followed them”.

In a report to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw in 1989, Władysław Misiuna determined that, thanks to his help, eight people had survived the Holocaust:  

"[…] they all survived and returned to Radom to see me and to meet. […] People rarely did that. I wasn't actually there, because I wanted to go and fight for the Poznań Citadel […] They got my address and remained in constant contact - even from Palestine, before Israel was established. […] With only one - Zofia Stopnicka - there was no contact, […] she left for Canada”.

Activity to Improve Polish-Jewish Relations

After the War, Władysław Misiuna settled in Warsaw. He became an economics professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. At the invitation of the rescued, in 1998, he visited Israel.

"Traces [ed: of my] actions were never written down. I could see them in their memory, during the meeting in Israel with my friends, when reciting the memorised poems”.

Following his return, he was active in improving the relations between Poland and Israel and in improving friendly relations between Poles and Jews. He was a co-founder of the Society for the Restoration of the Jewish Cemetery in Radom.

On 28th June 1966, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem honoured Władysław Misiuna with the title of Righteous Amongthe Nations. He has also been awarded Honorary Citizenship of the State of Israel. In 2007, the President of Poland awarded him the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Warszawie, Dział Dokumentacji Odznaczeń Yad Vashem, 349/24/1448
  • Czekanowska Monika, Interview with Władysław Misiunia, 1.01.2007
  • Szczepaniak Mateusz, 17.08.2017