The Konieczny Family

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Story of Rescue - The Konieczny Family

Before the war Maciej and Marianna Konieczny were living in the village of Dzierążnia (in the Pińczów powiat). They had three children: Honorata, Maria, and Mieczysław. Marianna also had two children, Józef and Piotr, from her previous marriage.

“We had a large farm. Some 40 morgens [ca. 20 ha], father was the richest man … in the village,” Honorata Rosa recounts in the interview for the Museum of History of Polish Jews.

Before the war they had contacts with Jews from the nearby town of Działoszyce. Maciej Konieczny was trading with them and helping them. Honorata recalls: “The Jews were trading with my father, because we had plenty of produce. So they’d buy the grain – the traders.”

The War

The German forces entered Działoszyce in early September 1939; a ghetto was formed in 1941. On September 3rd, 1942, 1,500 Jewish people were shot in Działoszyce; the remainder were taken to the Belzec extermination camp. Only a handful managed to escape.

Jews Who Were Rescued

Over several months, nine Jewish fugitives from the Działoszyce ghetto knocked on the Koniecznys’ door and asked for help.

The first of them was the cobbler Mr. Frenkiel with his eight-year-old son, Zelig. He knew the Koniecznys from before the war – he used to make their shoes. Even though he was taken in and treated very well, he chose to go to the Germans a month later. Honorata remembers he time:

“Dad took him in, and [then Frenkiel] said that he was a cobbler, he’d go to the Germans in Działoszyce and make shoes for them; that they wouldn’t kill him, because they needed a shoemaker. … And he went to the Germans, and they killed him, and the eight-year-old child stayed with us. He left the child. And we were raising him for two years and seven months.”

Later came another group of fugitives, the Olmer family. Sydney, his wife Lola, their son Lenart and Sydney’s sister, Tonia, came from Działoszyce. Honorata Rosa recounts:

“This man came to us, a Jew. His name was Olmer. He came and asked my mom for food, if she would give some food. And my mom asked ‘Where do you live?’ He said: ‘In the hay, at a farm.’ So then mom says: “How do you live in the hay, isn’t cold?’ There were five of them in that hay …. And a child of three. ‘How do you live there?’ Mom told her husband, my dad: ‘Let’s take these people in. They’re living in some hay with their children, and it’s cold now. How will they survive there?’ And when the man heard mom say that, he asked us to take them in. And my parents agreed, but they told him: ‘When you’re coming to us, you and your family, go at night, so no one sees you.’ … And they came at night. Six people. … And he came, and was here for some time, and dad told him: ‘You can’t be out in the open like this, in a room or somewhere, and then jump behind a closet; I’ll make a shelter for you.”

The first hideout

The first hideout was built under the house for Zelig Frenkiel and the Olmer family. They were later joined by Lola Olmer’s brother, Bolek Ikowicz.

Maciej and Piotr Konieczny dug a hole under the larder. The hideout was roofed with wood. “They had this pipe, it went under the stairs so it was hidden, but they had air coming down there. … They knew if it was day or night, because they could see the sun,” Honorata relates. The floor was lined with a hay pallet. The hideout was equipped with a stove, so the fugitives would be able to prepare food for the baby, and an oil lamp.

They were daily provided with fresh water, to drink or for tea, and with bread. In the summer and autumn they were given fresh fruit and vegetables from the Koniecznys’ garden. Honorata Rosa recalls:

“I was in charge of the cooking. … Sometimes when the neighbors would come and see these huge pots on the stove, they’d ask: ‘Why are you cooking so much?’ And I’d say: ‘We’re cooking for the partisans.’ … And when dad heard this, he said: ‘You need to get up at 4 in the morning, so the food is served early, at 6. Because there are people coming.’ ” 

The hideout was also provided with shelves for cups, plates, food, and water.

The Laufer family

Mania and Morys Laufer came from Łódź, but the war brought them to the vicinity of Działoszyce. For some time they were hiding at the farmstead of Honorata’s step-brother, Józef. The were not entirely safe there, so after a short time Józef asked Honorata’s father to take in the additional two people. Maciej Konieczny agreed, but a new hideout had to be built for the couple.

The second hideout

The hideout was located under the shed. Honorata describes it: “And dad was making a hideout again … And he put this dish in there, where they had an entrance, and no one was going there. … And he made them a shelter and an exit, I mean there was ventilation and light.”

A testimony to the good conditions in the hideouts is the fact that none of the fugitives fell ill throughout the two years and seven months of their hiding.

Piotr Konieczny bought papers for the fugitives every day. In the evenings the Koniecznys would come and talk with them. “Once a week we let them out to get some air ... to relax,” Honorata relates. ‘Dad was looking out from the yard. … After super, after 10 at night, the houses were dark, and dad would get them out and they’d do exercise. Because otherwise they’d grow stiff. They were sitting there for two whole years. … And dad was walking around, strolling, and he’d warn us if someone was coming.”

Another person hidden by the Koniecznys in the second hideout was Aszer Rafałowicz. Honorata relates his story:

“He came and begged to give him food, because he was hungry. And my mom – and it was at night, midnight or one in the morning – and my mom asked ‘Where are you staying?’ He said he had been in the forest and there was a hunt. They killed his wife and four children in the forest and he got away. That he had no place to stay and no money to buy anything, and besides there was no place to buy food, so he came to ask us. So mom told dad: ‘Let’s take this man in, his family is dead and he has no means to live; let’s put him in the second hideout.’ And that’s how they took him in.”
 
Danger

On one summer day in 1943, German police organized a raid on Koniecznys’ farmstead. The policemen were probably alerted by suspicious neighbors.

Honorata recounts: “Me and dad, we were at home, we were in the kitchen, and suddenly we see a policeman coming in … he goes right in with a gun in his hand, puts it to dad’s head and says ‘Give out the Jews.’ Dad says once: ‘There are no Jews here.’ And again: ‘There are no Jews here.’ And I see it’s getting bad, so I say: ‘We have no Jews here, go ahead and look.’ … And he left dad … They searched the entire house, all the buildings. They found nothing.”

After a fruitless search, the Germans left the Konieczny farmstead. The nine fugitives remained safe in their hideouts until the liberation in 1945.

After the war

When the war was over, Maciej Konieczny decided that for the sake of the fugitives’ safety, they should remain hidden for a month more; after that time he took them to Działoszyce.

Honorata married and had three children.

The Olmers left for Gliwice. Sydney opened a bakery there. Some time later the entire family emigrated to the US. Tonia Olmer married and settled in Canada. She has two children. Lenart Olmer moved to Florida and has two daughters.

On several occasions the Olmers invited Maciej Konieczny and Honorata to visit them. Honorata did visit them six times. One of the proofs of their friendship was a gift for Honorata: a Fiat 126p. They continue to maintain warm contacts to this day.

The Laufers emigrated to Israel. Honorata met them during the ceremony of awarding the Righteous Among the Nations medal.

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Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 1021
  • Dybała Anna, Interview with Honorata Rosa, 9.04.2009