The Macugowski family

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Story of Rescue - The Macugowski family

Stefania and Józef Macugowski lived in Nowy Korczyn together with their three children. Before the war, the population of that town was around 4 thousand people with circa 3/4 of them Jewish. The Macugowskis were friends with several Jewish families.

In November 1942, the Germans transported Jews away from Nowy Korczyn, taking them, via the station in Szczucin, to the death camp in Bełżec. Right before that deportation commenced, Szaindl Wainberg, a good friend of Józef, came to him asking for help. “She begged me to help her out in her difficult situation – she was hiding in the area with a priest but the people there suspected that she was Jewish and she had to flee from her hiding place”,he recalled after the war.

Macugowski agreed to take Szaindl in. After some time, she brought several other people, mostly members of her family, to him. Józef and Stefania decided that they were going to help those other people as well. They reckoned that they had nothing much to lose anyway – the punishment for helping one Jew was the same as the punishment for helping nine of them. Józef recalled: “There was a military police station around 200 metres from our house so we thought the Germans would not expect people to be hiding so close to them”.

The Macugowskis dug out a shelter in their basement. The number of people hiding there was seven and it grew to nine in 1944. They were: Sara Grynberg, Lejb and Gitla Radca and their daughters: Sara, Golda, and Miriam, Szaindl Wajnberg, Kupfer, and Mendel Grynbaum The hiding place was small, strewn with straw, and there were plank beds inside and a bucket for waste. Its ceiling was reinforced with steel rails and covered with planks and earth to conceal it even better. The people hiding in the shelter never left it – this exerted an immense strain on their bodies and, even more so, their minds.

The shelter could be entered from the yard, via the room in which hay was stored. It was prepared in such manner as to prevent even the children of the Macugowskis from discovering the hideout. The children did not know that there were Jews in hiding at their farmstead.

The hiding Jews bore a portion of the costs of food because Stefania and Józef would not have been able to procure enough food to feed nine more people on their own. In the summer of 1944, a German family was quartered on the Macugowskis. However, their presence had no impact on the people in hiding.

The Jews saw the end of the occupation, surviving until January 1945. They emigrated to the USA and Israel after the war. It was only after a dozen or so years that they made contact with one another via phone and by mail. The Macugowski family were also invited to New York by the daughters of Lejb and Gitla Radca and they made a trip to the USA in 1986.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Józefa i Stefanii Macugowskich, 349/24/706