Ciolkosz Kazimierz

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Story of Rescue - Ciolkosz Kazimierz

Kazimierz Ciołkosz was a farmer in the village of Zręcin, Krosno County, where he lived with his mother Rozalia and brothers Bolesław and Stanisław. According to Sara Lipiner's testimony from 1988, the Ciołkosz family had been known for their friendly relations with Jews.

The Fries family also owned a house in Zręcin, which they rented to others while themselves living in Katowice, where Szymon worked as a peddler of textiles. His wife Estera and their eight children: Marian, Otto, Rajmond, Max, Minka, Lunka, Anna and Zofia lived in poverty.

After his father's death Marian took over as head of the family and successfully developed the business, establishing the “Dywan” company specializing in the sale of carpets and later men's suits. All of the siblings worked at the family shop, except the youngest: Anna, a student at the Jagiellonian University and Zofia, a schoolgirl.

The two older sisters started new families: Minka married Adolf Grünspan, who was also employed at the Fries family company, and in 1935 gave birth to their son, Szymon. In 1937 Lunka (Laja) married Adolf Wagner, who owned a grocery shop in Katowice. Their son Feliks was born in the autumn of 1939, under German occupation.

In December 1940 Estera returned to her home village with her daughters and grandchildren. Her sons and Minka's husband had crossed the Romanian border, and Lunka, according to Zofia's recollections, fled to the Soviet occupation zone with her husband and son. After their departure from Zręcin at the turn of 1940 and 1941, they disappeared without a trace.

The Fries family were one of the three Jewish families in Zręcin. From the early days of German occupation, Kazimierz Ciołkosz helped Minka and Lunka (until her departure) who, according to Ciołkosz's account, had been left alone with two children. In 1988 Sara Lipiner, neighbour of the Fries family, wrote in her testimony for Yad Vashem: “Everyone in Zręcin knew that Ciołkosz started to visit the Frys [Fries] house at the start of the war and that he was a nice gentile”.

It was probably in May 1942 that all Jews living in the village of Zręcin: the families Fries, Lipiner and Szefler were ordered to move into the Jedlicze ghetto. “In that ghetto [...] the family of Anna Fries lived in dire poverty, so I helped them almost every day, supplying them with basic foods, with the assistance of my two brothers, Bronisław and Stanisław Ciołkosz”, wrote Ciołkosz after the war.

Kazimierz also procured identity documents for Estera Fries and her daughters in order to help them avoid detection after their escape from the ghetto: “In my desire to get that family out of the ghetto at any cost, I managed to acquire documents with Aryan names, which cost me a great amount of money and stress”. However, the family did not have a chance to use those documents, as the Germans surrounded the Jedlicze ghetto on 11 August 1942. All the Jews, among them Estera Fries, her older daughter and grandson, were deported.

Only Anna and Zofia managed to flee. They hid in a garden. “When the Nazis burst into the garden in search of Jews, the owner, Dr. Teofil Tokarski, sitting in the garden [...] declared that nobody had entered his garden, and thus saved their lives”, recalls Ciołkosz.

In the evening, the women arrived at Kazimierz's house, begging him for help. Ciołkosz initially kept them hidden in a barn. According to Zofia's statement from 1990, he concealed their presence even from his immediate family, especially his mother, who suffered from heart disease. A little later, for several weeks the sisters lived in hiding in Szczawnica with Olga Trybus, a pre-war friend, and used “Aryan papers”. When Olga's fear of denunciation forced them to leave, they returned to Ciołkosz. He decided he could only manage to hide one of them.

Initially, Zofia succeeded in surviving on her own, wandering from farm to farm in the area. In search for someone who could help her, Ciołkosz turned to the Czajkowski family, who were already sheltering the Lipiners. The Czajkowskis agreed to shelter Zofia and she hid in their house, unaware of the presence of the other Jews. Thanks to the cousin of Bronisława Czajkowska, Zofia received a birth certificate in the name of Antonina Jasińska, which helped her survive when she moved. Among other localities, she lived in the village of Bażanówka, Zarszyn Municipality.

Anna's hideout was betrayed and she was captured, but managed to escape: “When the escorting Gestapo officer and Polish policeman got off the wagon in the city and were walking down the sidewalk, engrossed in conversation, she jumped off the wagon and hid in the outbuildings of a synagogue”, said Ciołkosz in his testimony. Anna returned to Zręcin, but Kazimierz, himself wanted by the Gestapo, could no longer shelter her on his farm. He prepared a hiding place for her in dense bushes on the bank of the Jasiółka River and continued his search for a safer shelter.

He found a hiding place for Anna with Jan and Helena Majchrowicz in a neighbouring village, and then with his sister, Zofia Pelczarska in Zręcin. Anna however, according to Ciołkosz, “Often needed to change her hiding place, because bad people spread rumours about Jews hiding in the neighbourhood”.

During her stay with Ciołkosz's sister, Anna avoided arrest when “guided by her premonition of imminent danger, in the night she forced me to escort her to the hideout by the river”, Kazimierz wrote.

In the spring of 1943 Ciołkosz was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with harbouring Jews. He was released, however, probably through the intervention of a woman who used to buy flour from him.

Ciołkosz continued to protect Anna until the arrival of Soviet troops in September 1944. That was when Anna was reunited with her sister, whose fate had been a mystery to her.

When the war ended, Anna Fries married Kazimierz Ciołkosz and earned a degree in chemistry from the Jagiellonian University. In 1948 she took up a job at the Jedlicze Oil Refinery.

By chance, Zofia found out that Max Fries lived in Bucharest, and decided to find him. She managed to cross the border illegally and reach her brother. In Bucharest she met her brother's business partner Morris (Mundek) Altman, whom she married. The Altmans and Fries migrated to the US and lived in New York. Anna Ciołkosz visited her family only once.

In 1988 Anna Ciołkosz wrote a heartfelt letter to Yad Vashem, asking for help for her ill husband who, if deprived of her pension, would be left destitute: “The person mentioned deserves special recognition because, despite extreme adversity, imprisoned, beaten and tortured by the Gestapo for harbouring Jews, constantly hiding from the Gestapo and evil people, he found it in himself to save my life, putting his own life and the lives of his immediate family at risk”.

The Ciołkosz couple were childless. They were buried in a common grave in the municipal cemetery in Jedlicze.

After the war Zofia Fries migrated to the US, where she got married and changed her name to Sophie Altman. In 1995 her wartime memoir was published under the title One Step Ahead: My Survival During the Holocaust.

In 1992 the Yad Vashem Institute decided to award Kazimierz Ciołkosz the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


  • Archiwum Yad Vashem, 5097