Cywinski Feliks

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Story of Rescue - Cywinski Feliks

Feliks Cywiński was an engineer. In 1928, he graduated from the Air Force Cadet Officer Training School. He lived in Warsaw with his wife and two children. During the occupation, as an air force officer, he did not live with his family, but hid himself using false documents for the name Stefan Rutkowski. He was active in the resistance movement under the pseudonym "Ryś".

He was engaged in helping Jews, hiding 26 people for whom he rented apartments at 19 and 21 Sapieżyńska Street, 2 Ciasna Street and on Złota Street. He used to bring food to the Jews he sheltered many times a day and, not to arouse the neighbours' suspicion, he hid food in a briefcase and in his pockets. Among the people hidden there were Bursztyn, Elwira Guter (after the war Grosfeld, during the occupation using the name Jadzia Golewska), Aniela Karwowska, Regina and Samuel Kenigswejn, Helena Kelner, Maria Modzelewska, Urszula Rubinowicz with her family, Barbara Rychter and Rubinowicz. He also helped many others to obtain false documents, provided them with food and money.

In order to obtain the funds to buy food and pay for the apartments for the sheltered Jews, Cywiński's parents sold a villa in Brwinów, whilst his friend Jan Bocheński -a plot of land in Parysów. "People came to me through various contacts and acquaintances," Cywiński recalled after the war. He used to install the people he cared for in rented apartments, with his parents, wife and sister. He cared for the hiding Jews in cooperation with Basia (Batia) Temkin-Bermanowa and Dawid Guzik. Asked about the motifs for his activity, Cywiński said: "I thought that in that period of our greatest trial, it was our obligation to give a helping hand to those persecuted most heavily in the history of mankind, even for the price of own life."

In summer 1942, his friend, the engineer Jan Buchański, asked him for help in hiding Helena Kelner from Parysów. Cywiński accompanied him on the way to the camp in Chyżyny to take a photo of her to the Kennkarte. Helena asked to take her friend, Urszula Rubinsztein, from the camp as well. Cywiński obtained false documents for the women through another friend, Colonel Józef Sęk-Małecki (1902-1970) from the General Staff of the People's Guard. Having bribed the guards, Cywiński and Buchański led the women out of the camp. They were installed in Cywiński's room in the house on Królewska Street in Warsaw but due to the objection of the caretaker, Cywiński moved together with the women to the apartment belonging to Buchański's acquaintance at 19 Sapieżyńska Street.

Upon the request of Urszula Rubinsztein, Cywiński moved to the apartment her sister Finkielsztein, and then her parents and other siblings. Ms Finkielsztein, who fell ill with typhoid, in spite of the help of the trusted doctor, Jan Mockałło (born 1898) – the inspector of the Department of Hospital Care in Warsaw – died. In his post-war report, Cywiński noted: "Today it is hard to understand but her death put into question the chance of survival for all of us -those who I cared for and me, helping Jews." The body, with a piece of paper with the deceased's name affixed to the bag, was thrown over the wall of the Jewish cemetery.

At the end of 1942, those hidden on Sapieżyńska Street were joined by others. Franciszek Paśniczek (1889-1955) – a social activist and a former mayor of Garwolin – asked his friend to hide Aniela Klepfin and Maria Modzelewska. Cywiński also took under his care Klepfin's relatives – the Szacs with a 6-year-old child, who were looking for a new hiding place. Cywiński reported: "They told me directly that if I did not help them, they would have had to die. It was an uneasy dilemma." He installed them in his parents' place in Brwinów as Poles hiding from sending to forced labour in Germany.

In the apartment on Sapieżyńska Street , he also hid a famous boxer Samuel Kenigswejn and his wife Regina nee Sobol, who were with their two children previously hidden by Jan Żabiński on the premises of the Warsaw zoo. Regina's advanced pregnancy was a tremendous hazard for the remaining Jews and for Cywiński himself. The woman reported that Cywiński delivered the baby himself in 1944, whilst, according to Cywiński, it was in spring 1943. 

In the Warsaw Uprising, Cywiński was a quartermaster of the "Wigry" battalion of the Home Army, belonging to the "Róg" grouping, "Północ" group. He took part in the fights in the Old Town. After the "Zośka" battalion had captured the so-called "Gęsiówka", he established the Jewish Platoon under the command of Samuel Kenigswejn. Cywiński managed to provide weapons for the platoon which, at first, was engaged in building barricades. He mentions in his report that he was jokingly called "the Jewish king". The platoon fought in the Simons' Passage at the junction of the streets Nalewki and Długa and defended Saint John's Cathedral. Those soldiers who survived went through the sewage system to the City Centre and Górny Czerniaków.

After the fall of the uprising, Cywiński went out with civilians, whilst Kenigswejn with his wife, Rybak, Finkielsztein and two Greek Jews hid in the Old Town, provided by Cywiński with the remaining stock of the battalion’s food and survived until the liberation of Warsaw in January 1944.

Most of the people Cywiński cared for went to Israel after the war, where they invited him in 1965. He was welcomed like a hero. In 1966, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Feliks Cywiński the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów, Feliks Cywiński
  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.

  • II promocja Szkoły Podchorążych Lotnictwa - 1928 r.
  • Nalewajko-Kulikov Joanna, Strategie przetrwania: Żydzi po aryjskiej stronie Warszawy, Warszawa 2004
    The book is a comprehensive source of information about different aspects of hiding in Warsaw; a chapter is devoted to Polish rescuers, both organized and individual.
  • Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, Powstańcze biogramy - Feliks Cywiński
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 5711