The Gruca Family

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Story of Rescue - The Gruca Family

Before the war, the Jewish family of Berta and Maurycy Verderber lived in Cracow.Maria Gruca was the babysitter for their two daughters. The Verderbers were an affluent family . Their older daughter Rachel attended a private school and also had piano lessons.  

In March 1941, the Verderbers and their daughters moved to the newly-established Cracow ghetto.In 1942, due to very poor sanitary conditions in the ghetto, Rachel fell seriously ill. Additionally, in June 1942 the Germans organised the first mass deportation to the Bełżec death camp during which they took away the ghetto inhabitants that were the least useful for work. Berta Verderber was very concerned over the fate of her daughters.

She persuaded Maria Gruca and her husband to take away their younger daughter from the ghetto. The girl was at a similar age to the Grucas’ daughter Halina. Soon after Rachel also knocked on their door. The couple helped her, too. Being already a teenager, the girl hid behind a wooden wardrobe or under a bed during the day in order not to be seen by neighbours and people who could know her from before the war.

“With only one room (without a kitchen or toilet) and very limited financial means [Maria Gruca] took care of those children and kept in touch with the girls’ mother [...].The experiences of that time, the shared life of such enlarged family, the ordeal of providing security and food for the Jewish children and their own daughter are so extraordinary things that they seem almost improbable,” the Grucas’ son-in-law reported after the war. According to this account and Berta Verderber’s statement, they also helped two Jewish boys, whose first and second names remain unknown. Their occupation-time names were Edek and Zygmunt. One of the boys hid in the sewers and Maria Gruca brought him food there. She found shelter for the second boy with her Polish acquaintance in Cracow. Due to the poor financial condition of the Grudca family, the Verderbers paid for the food for their hidden daughters.

Despite the cramped conditions in the Grucas’ flat, both girls went practically unnoticed by the neighbours.Only one of them saw Rachel and asked about her. He was told she was Maria Gruca’s niece whose father had been drafted into the army and mother had been sent for forced labour. He did not ask any more questions.

Later on a babysitter and cleaner job at a Polish family in Cracow was arranged for Rachel, who had so-called Aryan documents. When she got the job she moved out of the Grucas’ flat and started to live with her employers.Lynn stayed with the Grucas until the end of occupation.

In 1945 their mother, who was still at the Bergsen-Belsen camp when the war ended, came back to Cracow.She and her daughters emigrated to the United States. Their contacted the Grucas sporadically.

Bibliography

  • Chwalba Andrzej, Kraków w latach 1939-1945, Kraków 2002
  • Biberstein A., Zagłada Żydów w Krakowie, Kraków 2001
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 650