Kocielski Marian

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Story of Rescue - Kocielski Marian

During World War II Marian Kocielski, his wife Rozalia née Margraf (born on 28 May 1910, died on 5 January 1982) and their three little children, Danuta (born in 1934), Zbigniew and Jadwiga (born in 1936) lived in eastern Poland in Lubaczów at 110 Kościuszki Street. Marian worked in the tax office, while Rozalia was a housewife.

Since January 1943 the Kocielski family provided a shelter for Szulim Szwarc. Szulim was the son of a grain merchant from nearby Oleszyce, with whom Marian had become acquainted while on business in as early as 1930.

On 22 June 1941 the Nazi Germans captured Lubaczów. Until the creation of the ghetto in September 1942, Szulim had worked in grain warehouses on Kościuszki Street and lived with the Kocielskis at their home. At the end of 1942 rumors spread that the Nazis were planning to close the ghetto and exterminate all Jews. As a consequence, Szulim made an arrangement with Mr. Pomorski, a resident of Lubaczów, that in case of danger the Jewish fugitive would hide in his house in return for grain and clothes.

The typhoid plague, which struck the ghetto, only sped up the Nazis’ decision to liquidate it. The Germans started to deport Jews to the Bełżec extermination camp. Szulim was able to escape, though; he was so desperate that he turned for help not to Mr. Pomorski, but to his old acquaintance, Marian Kocielski.

“In the night of 7 and 8 January, when we were already asleep, Szulim came to us and began to tell us that something was going on. He asked us to put him up, but in the morning he refused to go to work. I went to the office as usual, but in an hour or so we heard shots on the streets. (…) On my way back home I saw posters informing that the deportation action of Jews had already taken place. Whoever hid a Jew or helped him materially would be executed together with his whole family. (…) I noticed groups of Jews gathered by the Nazis and standing in lines – a few of those who had tried to escape were lying shot” – wrote Marian Kocielski in his report for the Yad Vashem Institute.

“He [Szulim] started to beg me and my wife to give him a shelter for a few days, until the whole situation calmed down, and then he would go to the hiding place previously prepared for him. To me this plan looked as terrible as the whole deportation action looked to him, because people already knew that Szulim had been living with us and that later he had also visited us” – continues Marian.

But the Kocielskis finally acceded to Szulim’s request. Initially, they hid him in the cellar, which he would leave only at nights. Soon Szulim wrote a letter to Mr. Pomorski, asking him when he could move to a hiding place arranged previously, but the addressee did not respond to the letter. When the ghetto was finally liquidated, Szulim was nowhere to go. As a result he lived with the Kocielski family until 27 April 1944, but his stay was kept in secret from not only the neighbors but also from his host’s children.

Szulim hid in a small shed with a double wall, situated behind the Kocielskis’ house. Marian and Rozalia provided him with food, German newspapers and a radio. Only at nights would he leave his hiding place. Once a week he took a shower and shaved at his rescuers’ home.

In April 1944 the members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army hung out posters in the town ordering inhabitants to leave their houses. For fear of mass executions, the Polish residents left Lubaczów. The Kocielski family moved to the village of Matysówka near Rzeszów, and then to Wola Rafałowska. Szulim could not join them, or otherwise he would give away his identity. The Kocielskis agreed to take a letter from the survivor to his sister living in Palestine and send it further by post. Szulim wrote: “If I survive, it will be only thanks to the selfless devotion and extraordinary efforts of Mr. Kocielski and his family…” The letter reached Israel in 1949.

“Unfortunately all our efforts came to nothing” – Marian Kocielski sums up the whole report. Szulim was too afraid to stay alone in the household so, equipped with food and money, he took cover in the forest. After some time he decided to turn for help to the acquaintance, a Ukrainian farmer living in Zabiała, whom he had known from before the war and whom Szulim’s father used to give non-refundable loans. However, the man denounced him to the German police. In May Szulim Szwarc was executed by the Nazi Germans on the Jewish cemetery in Oleszyce.

After the war Marian and Rozalia settled in Przemyśl.

In 1990 Szulim’s sister, Cypora Halpem née Szwarc, applied to the Yad Vashem Institute for awarding Marian Kocielski the honorary title of Righteous among the Nations.