Jozef Pluskowski

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Story of Rescue - Jozef Pluskowski

Józef Pluskowski was born in Pabianice, where he returned after graduating from Saint Petersburg University. He worked as a teacher. During World War I he was active in the Polish Military Organization (Polish: Polska Organizacja Wojskowa) and took part in disarming German military police. In his hometown of Pabianice, he was a member of the Supreme Council of the Polish Socialist Party (Polish: Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS). He also distinguished himself as a local government activist on the city board, held the position of councillor in the Department of Education and Culture and the Departments of Public Health and Social Welfare. He organized and participated in city ceremonies and cultural events, e.g. Song Festivals.In 1932 he authored the commemorative publication “Komendant Józef Piłsudski
w walce o wolność Polski” (“Commander Józef Piłsudski in the Struggle for Polish Freedom”). After moving to Warsaw, he took up the position of inspector at the Education Superintendent's Office. In 1937 Pluskowski was decorated with the Independence Cross for his work. In 1938 he published two volumes of poetry: “Na rubieżach śnień” and “Płomienne Dale”, and the following year “Trubadur z kolorowych bajek” through M. Fruchtman's publishing house in Warsaw. In 1938 he married a teacher, Irena Feliksa Turczyńska (b. 1920).

He participated in the defence of Warsaw in September 1939, for which he was decorated with the Cross of Valour by Stefan Starzyński. He joined the Home Army, adopting the pseudonym “Mierzwa”. He participated in the underground cultural life of the capital, and in 1944 he clandestinely published his collection of poems “Z walki i pracy”.

The Pluskowski family lived at 5 Elektoralna Street, right next to the wall of the Warsaw ghetto. As an employee of the department of civil registration at the Board of the City of Warsaw, Pluskowski was authorized to enter the Jewish district. He used his position to liaise between the Home Army and Jewish underground activists. He brought counterfeit documents and weapons into the ghetto and smuggled people to the “Aryan” side.

In his home Pluskowski concealed eight Jewish families, including Gustaw (Gerszon) Miller, his wife Pelagia and daughter Rena Laskowska with her son. In his statement dated 30 December 1946 Miller wrote that the Pluskowskis kept his family hidden between 1942 and 7 August 1944, “They did so selflessly, in a demonstration of great devotion, kindness and friendship”. In his statement dated 6 March 1947 he wrote: “I hereby declare that citizen Pluskowski Józef kept me, my wife, daughter and grandson in hiding for the entire period of German occupation, therefore I owe my life and the lives of my whole family entirely to him”. The Polish underground managed to intercept all denunciation letters about Pluskowski. Nonetheless, he was interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo twice in addition to paying blackmail.

Pluskowski fought in the Warsaw Uprising as a lieutenant of the Home Army. On 5 August 1944 he was decorated with the Order of Virtuti Militari. Two days later he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned at the Gerolstein POW camp. Liberated on 8 March 1945 by Allied forces, for a short time he commanded a guard company of the US Army in Paris. Earlier, during the Uprising, his wife gave birth to their son Andrzej on 23 September 1944, whom Pluskowski met for the first time after returning to Poland in November 1945.

Pluskowski joined his family living at 21 Długa Street in Mińsk Mazowiecki. Their financial situation was very difficult. After the war, he asked the Central Committee of Jews in Warsaw “for help; I am in need of a coat, clothes and shoes”. He was persecuted by the communist authorities and later arrested.

On 30 December 1946 Gustaw Miller submitted a testimony to the Jewish Committee in Łódź, in which he described Pluskowski as an “honourable and good” person while stressing that “as an educated man, he deserves complete trust and all kinds of help for himself and his family, particularly from fellow Poles, Jews and all Jewish organizations.” Following his release, Pluskowski was transferred across the border by the Zionist organization Brikhah. In August 1948 the organization also arranged for the departure of his wife and son, who crossed the border as Rachele and Adam Miller, Jewish emigrants leaving for Israel.

The Pluskowski family moved to Paris, where Józef found a job as editor in the Edition La Lumiere publishing house in Rue d’ Alsace. In 1949 he published his last collection of poems, “Dziewięćdziesiąt cztery utwory poetyckie”. In October 1950 his second son Grzegorz was born. The Pluskowski family intended to move to the US, where Józef had distant relatives. After his death, his wife and children moved to London. They received support from the Jewish Labor Committee from New York. In 1968 Pluskowski was posthumously decorated with the Home Army Cross.

In 2014 Andrzej Pluskowski visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and donated copies of documents of his family's history.

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Bibliography

  • Hasło Józefa Pluskowskiego w Wikipedii
  • Libionka Dariusz red., Akcja Reinhardt. Zagłada Żydów w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie, Warszawa 2004
    Libionka Dariusz, Polish-Christian Population and the Extermination of Jews – the Lublin District. An article presented at the conference of the Institute of National Remembrance, concerning the issue of Polish attitudes toward Jews. It touches upon, for example, such problems as the aid granted by Poles to Jews, the atmosphere among the rescuers, as well as the activity of the Lublin-Zamość Committee to Aid Jews in Warsaw.
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego
  • Philip Friedman, Their Brothers Keepers, New York 1978