The Kmicic Family

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Story of Rescue - The Kmicic Family

Szmul Brutin lived with his wife Hajka and daughter Halszka on a small plot of land in the village Snopków (Jostków Commune, Lublin Province). His elder brother Herszek and his sister Peja, as well as the Polish Kmicic family, also lived in the same village. Wacław Kmicic and his wife Stanisława and four little children: Ryszard, Zbigniew, Halina and Aleksandra had close neighbour relations with the Brutins and other Jewish families in the village.

During the German occupation, the Kmicics tried to help the Brutin family. In 1941, when Jews were displaced from Snopków to Bełżyce, Szmul was outside the house. At that time, he lost his parents, Jakub and Maria (nee Robrant), wife and daughter. For several weeks he hid in nearby forests, being helped by his Polish acquaintances. None of them, however, was willing to keep him in the house for longer, so he slept in barns and in the nearby cemetery, he was more and more exhausted physically and mentally. "I was resigned, I did not want to escape any longer," recollected Szmuel in his deposition in 1994.

In December 1941, Wacław Kmicic came across him in the cemetery. he invited the former neighbour to his house and agreed to shelter him. A hiding place for Szmul was prepared behind a wardrobe – a bed was brought into the room. At first, even Kmicic's children did not know about the presence of Szmul in the house.

The Kmicics' house was near the village manor house which was a seat of the German administration. During German round-ups, Brutin used to escape to the forest (where Wacław brought him food),whilst in winter he hid in the barn in a hay container. A few times, when Germans unexpectedly came to the Kmicics' house, Stanisława hid Szmul in a large Becker-type standing clock. Whenever a German search was expected as a consequence of denunciation, the Kmicics moved Szmul to trusted neighbours, among others, to the house of Stefania and Stanisława Gąsior from the nearby village of Smugi. During one of such raids, when Szmul was not present in the house, the house was searched thoroughly and the hosts were battered. The Germans wanted them to disclose the Jew's hiding place. In many cases, Pytka, the local head of the village, warned Wacław about possible German actions.

The Kmicics took care of Brutin until the liberation in July 1944. Szmul remembered many exceptional gestures which he experienced from the side of the Kmicics: the pies which Stanisława baked for him in the bread oven or Wacław's officer uniform which was given to him.

The Kmicic family also received their other Jewish neighbour, Mordko, as a guest. After the war, Mordko returned from the Soviet Union and stayed in their house. To defend him from assaulters who demanded to hand the Jew over to them, Stanisława alarmed the neighbours.

After the war, Szmul learned about the death of his sister and brother, who initially managed to hide in the nearby area but later were caught by the Germans and shot at the edge of the forest.

After the war, Szmul changed his name to Stanisław Janiszewski and married Genowefa Dudek, in whose house he also occasionally hid. He had a hiding place there, grooved in the floor. He remained in Jostków and lived to see two sons, a daughter Helena and a dozen grandchildren.

In 1992, Szmul applied to the Jewish Historical Institute for help in awarding Stanisława and Wacław Kmicic the title of the Righteous Among the Nations, asking for "sending the medal quickly, when I am still alive, as I am already 88 years old." Szmul became a member of the family, the Kmicics' children called him "uncle". The daughter Aleksandra, in her letter of 1994, stated that after the liberation "we still had close relations, he participated in all important events in our family -in fact, he never separated with my parents until their death."

He wrote in his deposition of 1994, expressing his bitterness: "For many post-war years I also experienced humiliation from people on many occasions and, as long as the Communist regime lasted, I did not want to refer to the issues of war and the experiences of Jews. Now, at the end of my life, I would like to live holding my head high for a while." On 11th September 1995, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Stanisława and Wacław Kmicic the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 1365
  • 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.
  • Nathan Michael Gelber, Bełżyce, Jewish Virtuall Library
  • Bogdan Musial, Aktion Reinhardt. Der Volkermord an der Judn im Generalgouvernement 1941-1944