The Janus Family
Story of Rescue - The Janus Family
Prior to the war Bronisław Janus lived in Biskupice, Pilica Municipality with his family: wife Helena, son Krzysztof and parents Marianna and Stanisław. Their house was situated at the edge of the village, near a forester's lodge.
Bronisław often saw the miller, one of the Berliński brothers, in the nearby village of Wierp Małoszyna, Pilica Municipality. “I went to the mill often and knew that Jew”, recalls Bronisław.
The Berliński family were related to the Rusinek family, who lived in Pilica, Olkusz County, at 12 Reformacka Street. According to Bronisław's account, one of the Berliński brothers was engaged to Estera Rusinek, but the account of Estera herself, given in 1955, indicates that Mordechaj Berliński (1900-1943?) was married to Karola, Aron (1895-1943) to Szoszana Grossfeld, their brother Adolf (1902–1992) was the husband of Estera's sister, Chana (1910–1943) and the couple had a daughter named Hinda.
Estera lived with her parents, Aba and Rywka née Grossmacht (1891–1943). Aba Rusinek (1890-1943) ran a transport company in town and Estera worked as a conductress on company buses. In January1939 the Rusinek family lost their permit to run the company and Estera had to rely on her parents' support.
In the autumn of 1942 Janus ran into Berliński: “He asked me if I would be willing to help him, if I could hide him. He actually mentioned multiple people”. After a family discussion, Janus agreed to help the Jews and prepared a hiding place for them in the pigsty. Berliński arrived at the Janus house with five young people, among them Estera Rusinek. According to Janus's statement: “They were young people whom I had never even seen before. They stayed in the dugout practically all the time. They only came out in the evening or at night”. Marianna Janus prepared their meals and brought them into the dugout. The hideaways gave the Janus family money, which were used to buy supplies in Pilica. The assistance, as Janus wrote years later, was a gesture “of good will”.
In her testimony given in 1945 Estera Rusinek mentioned the underground activities in Pilica and young people's preparations for armed resistance. In their course, young people used hiding places built on the property of farmers who were supportive of the partisans, for example “the hideouts built by the farmer Bronisław Januś [Janus]”.
Estera recalls the events of 12 January 1943, when the Gestapo arrived at the Janus family farm, demanding that Janus's brother-in-law “reveal the hideout under the pigsty. The brother-in-law protested, saying that he was just visiting. They started searching on their own and they found the place”. The young Jews hiding on the Janus farm were armed. Estera recalls the resulting fight with 12 young Jews commanded by Oskar Zuckhaft. The group included Wolf Zeew Frucht (1906–1943), a Jew using the pseudonym “Marynarz”, Rywka's uncle Berek Rusinek (1910–1943) – a butcher from Pilica, Paliwoda and Zorza.
When the sounds of fighting died away, several of the combatants managed to escape. Paliwoda stayed on his friend's farm and the other fugitives stayed with a farmer named Głąab. Afterwards they went to Sosnowiec. Estera found herself in a camp in Mała Środula.
Another account of the tragic events of 12 January 1943 was given by Bronisław Janus. He himself was not at home at the time because he went to the market in Pilica. His father Stanisław was also absent – he was at the nearby forester's lodge. They both survived, but other family members were murdered at the Janus house: Bronisław Janus's mother, wife and son, his sister Zofia Madej, brother-in-law Mieczysław Madej and Genowefa – daughter of Bronisław's other sister, Aniela, who had been sent for forced labour to Germany.
When he realized his house was being searched, Bronisław hid in the forest and observed the events from a distance of approximately 500 m. In the burned farm buildings, he found the bodies of his family and Jewish hideaways. He stayed in the forest, hiding from the Germans, until the end of the war.
Janus never found out who told the Germans that were Jews hiding in his home. He was also unsure whether Estera Rusinek survived, although he did not find her body among the dead: “After the war the local people said she managed to save herself running from the burning farm, but those were just rumours”, recalls Bronisław.
In 1945 Estera Rusinek settled in Sosnowiec, where she gave a statement about her experiences in World War II. She married her brother-in-law Adolf Berliński, whose wife Chana and daughter Hinda had died in Auschwitz. The Berliński couple migrated to Israel.
In his statement given in Katowice in 1995 before the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation, Janus remarked: “I think the above story, especially the tragic fate of my family, is proof that I am worthy of being considered ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’ I would like to have this kind of satisfaction in my old age”.
In 1997 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Stanisław and Marianna Janus and their son Bronisław the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Other Stories of Rescue in the Area
- Malysiak Albin
- Stypulczak Helena
- The Chucherko Family
- Biesaga Jozef
- Kierocińska Janina
- The Muszynski Family
- The Muszynski Family
- The Janczarski Family
- The Rogozinski Family
- The Chawinski Family
- The Latos Family
- The Kafarski Family
- Kosibowicz Tadeusz
- The Grzybowski Family
- Jasinska Pelagia
- Skowrońska Honorata
- Mieczyslaw Zawadzki
- The Baranek Family
- The Janus Family
- The Nowak Family
- The Stolarczyk Family
- The Blonski and Skop Families
- The Nędza Family
- Walentyna Zak (Ala Sztajnert)
- Archiwum Yad Vashem, 7669