The Kociszewski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Kociszewski Family

The numerous, ten-member family of Berek and Chawa Scher lived in Warka, near Radom. They traded in fish, fabric and clothing and, ultimately, they planted fruit orchards. They were known in the area and, as Lazar Scher recalls, they were respected for their honesty and were well-liked. They were friendly with many people, among them Niwy Ostrołęckie farmers, Antoni and Aniela Kociszewski.

Immediately upon entering Warka in 1939, the Germans burned down the synagogue next to the Scher home. The family began to wander away. Zenek left for Russian-occupied Białystok but, nervous about his family, returned again before the year’s end.

In November 1940, the Germans established a ghetto in Warka. Hunger was everywhere. The Scher family lived by smuggling food to Warsaw. They were helped by the Urbański family from Zagroby, who lent them the boat needed to take the food across the river. They were also helped by the Anuszkiewicz family.

In February 1940, the Scher family avoided being amongst those Warka Jews transported to the Warsaw ghetto. Instead, they travelled to Zagroby, where they rented a room. The fact that they had lived in a village and well-knew the customs and mentality of the peasants helped them to hide their identities. Lazar Scher recalls that ”my brother and I behaved as though we’d been raised in a village since childhood. We knew how to mimic the gestures of the peasants, even the smallest of their customs and habits. We developed a survival instinct. It was the instinct of perpetual fugitives. We had to toughen ourselves … the alternative was death”.

In November, under an order from the Germans, the Scher family moved to Mniszew. They were still being helped by farmer friends who sold them food. Soon afterwards, the family was deported to Kozienice and, from there, in October 1942, they were transported to the Treblinka death camp.

Zenek and Abraham, who worked with a Polish engineer on land reclamation in the area, were not deported. One night, in November 1942, the boys decided to escape from the labour camp. They reached the home of Antoni Kociszewski, asking him for advice as to what they should do. Antoni, who had promised Berek that he would do everything he could to help his children, suggested that they hide on his farm. The brothers settled into the stable, with Sabina, a cousin of the Kociszewski’s, bringing them food. They worked at night in return for the help that they were given. Twice, due to imminent danger, they left their hiding place for a few days. They left permanently in August 1944 when the Soviet army reached the village.

After the War, Lazar emigrated to France. His brother went to Argentina. Years later, in his written memoirs, Lazar wrote of Antoni Kociszewski, ”Without this person, my brother and I would never have survived the War. He risked his own life, and the lives of his whole family, to save us”. 

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