The Grabowski family

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Story of Rescue - The Grabowski family

Before the war, Henryk Grabowski was active in the scouts and worked together with Jewish scouts. He lived in Warsaw at ul. Podchorążych. During the Nazi occupation, he came to be known as Heniek Słoniniarz [Henry the pork fat man] because he earned a living by selling meat and pork fat. At the same time, he and his wife Irena were assisting the Zionist underground with organisational work, mostly outside of the ghetto.

He came into contact with Jewish scouts in the Warsaw ghetto in the second half of 1941 at the initiative of Irena Adamowicz who proposed that he should handle contacts with members of Hashomer Hatzair in Lithuania. He reached places such as Grodno, Vilnius, and Troki as part of this task, passing through Białystok en route. He made the entire trip by bike in order to remain safe. He not only delivered the letters entrusted to him and received word from local activists but also was the first one to notify the Jewish underground of the mass extermination of Lithuanian Jews, including news about the Ponary massacre.“Heniek Grabowski told us about what happened in Ponary”, Mordechaj Cukierman, a Jewish underground activist, wrote. Thanks to that information, people started to realise that what was happening did not boil down to local pogroms – it was planned extermination of the entire Jewish population.

From that time onwards, the apartment of the Grabowskis became a communication node and a transfer point for underground Jewish organisations. It was used by, inter alia, Arie “Jurek” Wilner, Israel Nagiel, Jehoszua Winograd, Chajka Grosman, Edek Boraks and many others. It was also used for storing the equipment and firearms purchased. Among other things, Henryk Grabowski took part in smuggling such materials to the ghetto. His cooperation with Arie “Jurek” Wilner, an underground activist operating on the “Aryan side”, deserves particular attention. When Arie was arrested by the Germans in March 1943 and placed in a labour camp in Rembertów, Henryk successfully carried out an operation for getting him out of there. Thanks to the thoughtful care of Irena Grabowska, “Jurek” quickly recuperated and returned to the ghetto where he was killed during the uprising.

Henryk helped Jewish organisations selflessly. He acted out of humanitarian considerations and on the basis of his ideals. He risked his life many times. After the war, he remained in touch with many of the people whom he met during the occupation and who had left Poland. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded him and his wife with the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1984. Henryk paid a visit to Israel then, invited by his friends and acquaintances.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • 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.

  • 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 Henryka i Ireny Grabowskich, 349/24/330