The Biel family

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Story of Rescue - The Biel family

In 1935, Maria and Tomasz Biel came back to Poland from France and settled in a small town of Wojakowa (Brzesko County, Kraków District). Tomasz had worked in France and in other countries as a miner in coal and iron ore mines. In Wojakowa, they bought a farm which had been previously owned by Mojżesz Riegelhaupt (after the war, he changed his name to Rygiel). They swiftly became friends of the Riegelhaupt family.

During the occupation, when Jews started to be persecuted, Maria and Tomasz provided help for their Jewish acquaintances. In July 1942, Zygmunt (Mojżesz's son) and Izaak Tauger (brother-in-law's brother) managed to escape to a nearby forest. It was only a day before the entire Riegelhaupt family, along with a number of other Jewish families from Iwków, had been sent to the Zakliczyn Ghetto. In October 1944, right before the liquidation of the ghetto, the Biel family helped Mojżesz escape with his daughter Regina, daughter-in-law Rywka and Rywka's two daughters – Pesia and Ita.

For two months between 1942 and 1943, Zygmunt and Mojżesz hid in the Biel household, in a hideout built especially to accommodate them. In the spring of 1943, they went back into the forest, but they often visited the Polish family. Maria and Tomasz would give them food and from time to time gave them shelter for a couple of days. Seeing that the distance between the forest and the Biel household was quite big, the visits became more and more scarce, but the Jews never stopped coming to the Biel family's house. After the war, Zygmunt said: “The Biel family wanted us to survive and they were very generous in their help. They did whatever they could: gave us shelter, food, tried to lift our spirits. Tomasz Biel was a man full of dignity and a declared anti-fascist, so not only did he give us information coming from the German-Soviet front […], but he also warned us about the local roads that would lead us to death.” The Biel family gave the Jews food and provided them with information on manhunts and any other dangers right until the end of the occupation.

In March 1944, the Biel household was robbed. Tomasz was severely battered and two of his ribs were broken. According to Zygmunt Rygiel, the robbery was connected to the fact that Tomasz Biel was sentenced by the Home Army command for his leftist opinions and for declining to denounce Soviet sympathisers. Maria talked about the event as follows: “We went through really hard times. Fortunately, those men did not catch the people who were destined to die.”

After the occupation, Mojżesz Riegelhaupt moved to Israel, where he died in 1959. Zygmunt stayed in Poland. The Biel family kept in touch with people they had rescued.

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 Tomasza i Marii Bielów, 349/24/1213