Brzeski Jan

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Story of Rescue - Brzeski Jan

Jan Brzeski was a doctor of medicine, practising in his home town Brzesko and in the neigbourhood.As his wife Władysława reported in her letter to the Yad Vashem Institute, he had nationalistic views and, when he was young, he was even active in an anti-Semitic youth organization. Those views, however, did not prevent him from helping Jews during the occupation. As early as in 1941, for his activity and night visits to those in need, he was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Tarnów for several months. He was released when the epidemic of spotted fever broke out in Brzesko. The Germans ordered him to return to work as there was a shortage of doctors in the town.

Before the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish community in Brzesko constituted about 60% of the inhabitants.In spring, in 1941, the Germans established a ghetto there, in which they concentrated about 6 thousand people. Its liquidation took place on 17 and 18 September 1942 - the old, ill or unable to work were murdered on the spot, whilst the others were deported to the extermination camp in Bełżec.

On those days, during the German operation in the Brzesko ghetto, Jan Brzeski hid Naftali Schiff and a Jew from Bochnia in the cellar of his house.He also provided medical assistance to the Jews who managed to escape after the liquidation of the ghetto and hid in the town and the neighbouring area. Among his patients was Regina Sperber, the wife of Herman Sperber. Before the war, the spouses lived at the border of the village of Dębno and Porąbka Uszewska. Brzeski assisted at Regina’s difficult childbirth. Later, the bunker in which the Sperbers hid was revealed and only Herman Sperber survived out of the 12 people hiding there.

Another Brzeski’s patient was Lili Matzner who was sheltered during the occupation by a farmer named Topolski in the village of Jadowniki.“I hereby certify that, in the years 1942-45 I hid in the bunkers in a village near Brzesko and, being seriously ill three times [lung inflammation, haemorrhage caused by miscarriage] [...], I called Doctor Brzeski who agreed to visit me. He actually came three times, at night, brought back ways by trustworthy people. His visits saved my life, particularly in the case of the haemorrhage. I also underline that Doctor Brzeski did not take any money from me during any of the visits.” Lili Matzner survived the war.

Other Doctor Brzeski’s patients included Stefania Liban and her sister and niece, hiding using the so-called “Aryan papers” in the village of Jasień.Brzeski also paid for the medications for a Jewish boy who hid with his mother in the village of Poniatowa. Apart from that, he stored Helena Taub-Jachcel’s clothes and valuables, which he returned to her after the war. Brzeski also helped her to arrange the so-called Aryan identity card for the name of Helena Janicka and provided her with a certificate of baptism. The woman survived the occupation.

It is not known whether the Jews whom Jan Brzeski helped had been known to him before the war. Thus, it is probable that some of them had been his patients.After the war, the Jews who survived testified in his matter: “We, the undersigned Jews from Brzesko, hereby certify, during the occupation, that Doctor Jan Brzeski from Brzesko provided medical help to Jewish people with all willingness, both in the initial period as well as in the most severe times of hiding and pogrom”.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Samsonowska Krystyna, Wyznaniowe gminy żydowskie i ich społeczności w województwie krakowskim (1918-1939), Kraków 2005
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 180