The Bażant family

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The story of the Bażant family

In October of 1942, Stefan Bażant, aged 24, residing in Sandomierz, helped a friend of his, aged 23, Róża, née Mała, escape from the local ghetto. It was no easy feat to be accomplished – he had to enter the ghetto himself several times to find an escape route. He was captured by German military policemen during one such visit. He managed to save himself by tripping one of the men to the ground and running away, machine gun bullets swishing past him as he ran. He saved Róża at the very last moment – the Germans liquidated the ghetto on 29 October, transporting most of its inhabitants to the death camp in Bełżec.

However, it turned out that leaving the ghetto was simpler than surviving outside of it. At first, Stefan led Róża to a settlement called Cegielnia where, in an old shed, her two brothers and her sister Bronisława with her three children were hiding. He provided them with food. When winter came and, with it, risk of discovery, that place ceased to be safe. Most refugees, in spite of Stefan’s appeals and warnings, decided to return to the ghetto. The Germans promised that the persecution would soon end. Only Róża decided to stay on the “Aryan side”.

Stefan took it upon himself to hide her and found new hiding places for her all the time. At first, he hid Róża in a ditch in the village of Kruków, then with the Opałka family in Gołębice. After a month, they refused to hide her any longer, fearing repression, and Stefan moved Róża do the village of Chwałki. He paid for her stay there and visited her twice a week. In January 1943, her new hosts, too frightened with the all-too-possible death sentence, also refused to harbour Róża any longer. Stefan then took Róża to Rzeczyca where he built a shelter for her among outbuildings without the owner’s knowledge. He was forced to relocate her again after two days. He asked the Opałka family for help once more. After Róża spent a month with them, he moved her to his family house at Krucza Street in Sandomierz.

In the summer of 1943, faced with possible denunciation by collaborators suspecting that he had been helping Jews, Stefan not only had to find new hiding places for Róża (often among fields and in gardens) but also to hide himself. When it got cold, they returned to the family house of Stefan. Róża spent the winter there, in a hiding place built below the pig sty by Stefan’s parents, and saw the Germans leave in the summer of 1944.

Stefan’s help was selfless. He received and wanted no reward from Róża or her family and neither did his parents, Stanisław and Józefa. After the war, Stefan remained in contact with Róża, who settled in Canada. In 1995 the Yad Vashem Institute awarded the Righteous Among the Nations title to Stefan and his parents.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Wincentego, Stanisława i Józefy Bażantów, 349/24/1525