The Dabrowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Dabrowski Family

Before the war, Wacław and Józefa Dąbrowski lived with their two children at 27 Cmentarna Street in Siedlce.

Siedlce was also home to the family of Israel (1881-1942) and Chaja Brener (née Gruszka) (1900-1942) with eight children. Among them were sons Aszer (an architect), Natan and Mojżesz, and daughter Mala (1931-1942). Aszer Brener was married to Bernard Czosnek's sister, Estera (1920-1943).

During World War II, the Czosnek and Brener families found themselves in the Siedlce ghetto, which was closed down on 1 October 1941. Most members of both families had died in the ghetto or had been sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka in August 1942. The Jews who were assigned to work or who had managed to survive in hiding, moved into the so-called little ghetto. Its inhabitants were transported to Treblinka in November 1942.

In 1941 Bernard Czosnek worked at the military airport in the Nowe Siedlce district, where about 100 Jews from Siedlce worked as forced labourers. While unloading coal, Czosnek got acquainted with Wacław Dąbrowski, a cart driver. As Józefa Dąbrowska recounted in 1988: “When rumours about the liquidation of the Siedlce ghetto started circulating, Bernard Chosneka [Czosnek] ran away. He planned to hide in the apartment of a couple he knew well, but they refused to take him in”. According to Bernard's statement from 1989, he managed to escape from transport on the way to Treblinka in late 1942.

The Dąbrowski family welcomed Bernard despite their own difficult living conditions, a single room in the attic. As Mrs Dąbrowska wrote: “When he came to us, we took him in. He washed himself, got clean clothes and a decent place to sleep”.

Several days later, Bernard came to the Dąbrowskis with his brother-in-law Aszer Brener and his two brothers. During the day, the four men hid in a wardrobe in the corner of the room: “If someone came to see me during the day, they stayed in hiding, but at night slept normally on their pallets”, Wacław wrote.

Caring for the hideaways was primarily Mrs Dąbrowska's job, who stated: “I washed their clothes myself, cooked for them, I had more shopping to do”. In his statement, Bernard Czosnek stresses that his protectors treated him as a member of the household. “Everything the Dąbrowskis did for my benefit was done selflessly”.

Even when Wacław Dąbrowski was arrested by the gendarmerie, his wife continued to look after the hideaways. As she wrote years later: “Sheltering them was simply a humanitarian impulse”.

When Dąbrowska was seen buying more bread, it aroused suspicion in the neighbourhood that she might be harbouring Jews. “German informers became interested in me”, she wrote.

On the evening of 13 February 1943 the Gestapo turned up at the Dąbrowski home. According to Czosnek, their visit was an act of revenge from the Volksdeutsche working at the airport, with whom Dąbrowski was in conflict. Dąbrowski was not home at the time and Czosnek and Natan Brener managed to flee. Józefa was arrested. Aszer Brener, who was sick in bed, was shot, while his younger brother Mojżesz was killed in the yard while trying to escape.

The Dąbrowski children were taken to an orphanage situated in the same street. Dąbrowska was taken to the Pawiak prison, then to Majdanek, and finally to the Ravensbrück camp.

Czosnek survived until “liberation” at the house of Konstantyn Chwedoruk in Ujrzanów. Natan Brener survived the war as well. Natan moved to Israel, and Bernard to the US, where he changed his name to Chosnek.

Leaving Poland, he was convinced that Mrs Dąbrowska was dead.

The parents of Bernard Czosnek: Malka Czosnek (née Ejnes) (1883-1942) and Pesach Czosnek (1883-1943) as well as his sister Estera, all perished in the Holocaust.

Bernard visited Poland in 1985. Dąbrowska found out about his visit by accident: “He found out by telephone that I was alive and where I lived. The next day he was in Siedlce. He came to visit me”.

In 1995 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Wacław and Józefa Dąbrowski the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, 5378