The Pawelec family

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Story of Rescue - The Pawelec family

During the German occupation, Maria and Wojciech Pawelec lived in the village of Majdan Wrotkowski near Lublin together with their daughter Anna. They had a farm which was the main source of their income. Before the war, they had been making use of tailor services offered by Abraham Klajman. Right until September 1939, his shop was located in the centre of Lublin, at the intersection of ul. Solna and ul. Chopina. Apart from Abraham himself, Zelik Lederman, his cousin, also worked at the shop.

Ever since 1941, the Pawelec family had been helping Jews who came to their village from the Lublin ghetto. Anna recalled: “During the occupation, Jews from the Lublin ghetto would come to our village in search of food, sometimes offering their crafting skills in exchange. I remember that there were Jewish tailors who would sew at various houses, also at my parents’ place.”

During the September of 1942, several weeks before the liquidation of the Lublin ghetto, two men came to the Pawelec household, asking for help and shelter. They were Abraham Klajman and Zelik Lederman, two tailors whom the Pawelec family knew and who managed to escape from the ghetto. Having talked the matter over, the family decided to take them in.

The men hid in a cubbyhole adjacent to the stable and sometimes in its attic. At night, they would come to the house itself to warm themselves up, wash themselves, and have a meal. The family also prepared an alternative hiding place for them in case Germans should come to the village. A hole was dug out and an underground shelter was created in the stable adjacent to the cubbyhole, under the floor of one of the boxes where horses were kept.

After the war, Anna recalled: “My parents and I acted selflessly and we just wanted to save lives. I carried food to Klajman in the hideout, washed his clothes, and warned him when Germans appeared in the village. We had to remain vigilant day and night as there was a unit of German military police stationed nearby.”

For safety-related reasons, Zelik Lederman stayed at the house of Maria and Wojciech Pawlec only for a couple of weeks. A separate hiding place was found for him - he hid with relatives living in the village of Zemborzyce near Lublin. Zelik recalled after the war: “While hiding in Zemborzyce near Lublin, I knew full well that Abram Klajman was receiving active and selfless help from the Pawelec family, particularly from the daughter, Anna Pawelec. I also knew that she had been helping other Jews who ran away from the Lublin ghetto and were hiding in a forest called Stary Las, located near the farm of the Pawelec family. Anna Pawelec personally brought food - bread, cooked potatoes, water, and onions - to them.” Abraham Klajman stayed with the Pawelec family until the Red Army arrived in Lublin and until the German occupation of the area ended.

Klajman went to Lublin in July 1944. The Pawelec family have not heard from him again. It was only after some time that they learned from Zelik that Abraham was killed in Lublin in 1945. “After the liberation, I met my cousin Abram Klajman in Lublin, where he settled, quite often. During our meetings he would tell me about the help he received from the Pawelec family and emphasised that it was thanks to their help that he managed to survive the Nazi occupation,” Zelik said. According to him, Klajman was shot close to the beginning of 1945 by persons unknown just for being a Jew.

After the war, Zelik Lederman changed his name to Zygmunt Lewandowski and, some time later, married Anna Pawelec. The remained in Poland.

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 Marii i Wojciecha Pawelców oraz Anny Lewandowskiej, 349/24/1470