Marchlewicz Bronislaw

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Story of Rescue - Marchlewicz Bronislaw

From 1937, Lt. Bronisław Marchlewicz was head of the police station in Otwock. During World War II, he was also a member of the anti-Nazi resistance movement was a Home Army officer with the pseudonym "Bold." Risking not only his and the the lives of relatives, on many occasions, Bronisław Marchlewicz defended the population of Otwock – both Poles and Jews. He saved many people from arrest, deportation to concentration camps and from other persecution.

The petition to honour Bronisław Marchlewicz with the medal of the “Righteous Among the Nations” was put forward by: Maria (Marysia) Osowiecka (today Michele Donnet, a citizen of France), whom Bronisław Marchlewicz helped, and by her older cousin, the daughter of pre-War neighbors, Hanna Kamińska-Goldfeld. For years, Michele Donnet did not know the details of her salvation. It was many years later that she discovered that, in August 1942, her mother – a Jewish teacher, Anna Osowiecka – left her on the street in Otwock, hoping that someone would save her. A passer-by took the girl to the Polish police station, which was headed by Bronislaw Marchlewicz. Marchlewicz gave the 5-year-old Marysia to his neighbour, Aleksandra Szpakowska, who hid her until priest, Ludwik Wolski, issued the little Jewess with a false baptism certificate under the a name of Halina Brzoza. The girl was then placed into an orphanage run by sisters from St.Elizabeth convent in Otwock. After the War, she left for France with her older cousin, Hania.

There is some evidence that Lt. Marchlewicz also helped other Jews. He ordered the release of a group which was captured in a rai. He thwarted extortionists’ denunciations and warned the people who were hiding Jews. He was a righteous man in inhuman times. Max Noj, a Jew form Otwock, who left his daughter with the sisters from St. Elizabeth convent, recalls in  Ewa Kurek’s book, "Jewish children in Monasteries" that "the officer of the navy blue police station in Otwock, who was my friend, was informed about every baby left on the doorstep of St. Elizabeth convent. He promised me that in case of any slip-up, during which a child would appear at the police station, he would call Szpakowski, an engineer, and then his wife would take care of the child and treat him or her as her own or as her cousin’s. "

In 1948, the National Municipal Council published a special resolution in which Commander Marchlewicz was described as "always loyal to the Polish Underground and always acting as befits a righteous Pole”. During discussion preceding the adoption of this resolution, Councilor Isaac Cinnamon said that "Lt. Bronislaw Marchlewicz freed the Jews who were taken to the Police Station" and, in contrast to other officers, did not apply sanctions against the Jews who crossed the borders of the ghetto.

In 1949, Bronislaw Marchlewicz was arrested by the communist authorities on a charge of participating in "nazification of the Polish society in the period from 1927 to 1937." As a result, residents of Otwock gathered several thousand signatures to call for his release from prison. Despite this action, he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment with deprivation of civil  and honorable civil rights.

In 1950, the Supreme Court decreased the punishment in an appeal trial. The justification for the sentence was that the conduct of Marchlewicz during the nazi occupation, "which was admirable, and was on the borderline of heroism (...) the defendant risked his life to save the Polish population against the enemy regardless of their political affiliation and nationality."

Until 1958, although Bronislaw Marchlewicz had been released prison, he still had  a criminal record as a person deprived of civil rights. He lost his pension entitlements and lived in great poverty, not being able to find employment. When he found a job, he would lose  it quickly by being dismissed under the pretext of reorganization. Finally, he became the administrative director of a municipal hospital in Otwock.

Hanna Kaminska-Goldfeld confessed years later that "the navy blue officer" would have been "the last person who she would ask for help. However, it was thanks to her commitment that, after a thorough analysis, that on  November 21, 2004,the Yad Vashem Institute honoured Bronisław Marchlewicz with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations”.

The Medal Ceremony was held on July 24, 2005, on the police holiday, in the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw. On behalf of Major Marchlewicz, the medal was collected by his son, Zbigniew Marchlewicz. The chief commander of the police, Gen. Leszek Szreder, said during the ceremony, "We are proud that Bronislaw Marchlewicz was one of us."

On November 11, 2009, President Lech Kaczyński posthumously awarded Bronisław Marchlewicz with the Commander's Cross with a Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta "for heroism and extraordinary courage in saving Jews during World War II an for his outstanding contribution in defense of human dignity and human rights."  

We publish this article courtesy of Zbigniew Nosowski, chairman of the Social Committee of the Jews of Otwock and Karczew 

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Bibliography

  • Red., To się nie mieści w stereotypie, „Rzeczpospolita”, nr 172