The Pokropek Family

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Story of Rescue - The Pokropek Family

Stefan Pokropek was a stonemason sculptor in Powązki who also worked in Lvov and Vilnius. He and his wife Eleanor and their three children: Barbara, Irena and Jerzy lived in Warsawat 80 Waszyngtona Street. He was a member of the Polish Socialist Party. In September 1939 he belonged to the Civil Anti-Aircraft Defence of Warsaw.

During the siege of Warsaw in the autumn of 1939, the wooden house belonging to the Pokropek family was hit by an incendiary bomb. They were forced to live with Eleanora’s sister at Krucza Street. After some time Pokropek rebuilt the demolished part of the house and the family could move back to Waszyngtona Street. Eleonora traded at Ząbkowicka Street. He was employed by the Germans.

Pokropek made contact with the Jewish underground in the Warsaw Ghetto – he gave food, medicine and weapons. According to an interview given to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 2014 by his son Jerzy Pokropek, his father remained in contact with, among others, Marek Edelman. The money to make purchases on the so-called Aryan side came, among others, from the sale of items brought from the ghetto.

In the spring of 1943, Pokropek brought home a seventeen-year old Jewish boy from Góra Kalwaria, probably named Mordechaj, whom the Pokropek family called Rysiek.  Rysiek lived in the apartment at Waszyngtona Street for several months. In the event of unexpected visits from neighbours, the boy hid in a specially prepared hideout in a small space behind the doors leading to an unused room. Rysiek helped with housework, he went outside only the evenings, accompanied by Jurek.

The Pokropek family also took a one-year-old child of Rachela Zawoźnik from Łódź. The child, who was called Marysia, was presented to the neighbours as the daughter of Eleanora Pokropek’s sister who fell ill and could not take care of the child. In the spring of 1943 Pokropek rented a cottage in Pustelnik near Warsaw from Mrs. Banaszkowa, where the siblings Szalom (Alfons) (b. 1910), Mendel (Michał?) (b. 1908), Piotr (?) and Rachela (Hela) Kosowerow were hiding. Rachela was then placed in Warsawat Targowa Street. Kosowerow’s sister, Szosana, (b. 1922), pseudonym Emilka, wassent for Emanuel Rigelblum, whom she led from the camp in Poniatowa.

One of Stefan’s contacts with the Jewish underground was Symcha "Kazik" Rathajzer, whom he met in the beginning of May 1943, shortly after Kazik left the ghetto. Kazik escaped during the uprising in the ghetto. On the so-called Aryan side he tried to organize the evacuation of the ghetto fighters, and take them to the partisans.

Pokropek suggested Kazik to use the intermediation of Czarny, who turned out to be an agent of the Gestapo. On 23 June 1943 Kazik and Tuwia "Tadeusz" Szajngut came to Pokropek and together they waited for Czerny, who promised to supply arms to the Jewish underground. Stefan’s daughter, Basia, was cooking dinner, Rysiek was sitting in the hideout.

It turned out that the conspirators were caught in an ambush. The German military police began banging on the door. "They began to scuffle, [...] father knocked him to the ground. [...] They fired a series through the wooden door. Father  was wounded. He shouted: Basia, run away as quickly as possible, because it will be hot!" says Jerzy Pokropek. Basia and Kazik jumped out the window. "Father shot himself in the head, he committed suicide, so that they would not torture him," added Jerzy.

Tuwia "Tadeusz" Szajngut was also killed. "The blood of Polish and Jewish fighters was shed together in the fight against the common enemy," wrote Władysław Bartoszewski and Zofia Lewinówna in Ten jest z Ojczyzny mojej. Basia and Kazik warned the mother and the other siblings against returning to the flat, which was under observation of the German police.

Pokropkowa went to her friend’s flat  - Aleksander Borkowski, who rented an apartment in the suburbs of Warsaw in Rembertów, paid for by the Jewish Fighting Organization. Hela Schűpper-Rufheisen and Sara "Krysia" Biederman were hiding there.

In Pokropek’s apartment the Germans seized Rysiek who was hiding there. He was probably tortured and gave away Borkowski’s address. The neighbours remember that he was taken by the Germans on a motorcycle. Pokropek escaped arrest by fleeing with her children from the house. For several nights she slept with her children and Marysia in the field. In a testimony, submitted in 1946, Eleanora Pokropek explained her decision to give the girl to Boduen’s institute: "I suffered greatly with that child, we slept in the open air, you had to lull her so that she would not cry because people would hear, and at that time, whenever they saw a Jew, they immediately ran to the Germans ".

The Pokropek family returned to Pustelnik, and then went to Wesoła, and Borkowski took Kosowerów to Radość. Pokropek hid Tadeusz Zawadzki, with his wife Janina and half year old son, near Warsaw.

In May 1946 Eleonora Pokropek sent her account entitled The Story of Eleonora Pokropek. How she maintained Jews to the Central Committee of Jews in Poland. She also asked for help in a critical situation for her three children.

In 2000 the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Stefan and Eleanora Pokropek with the titles Righteous Among the Nations.
 

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 2542
  • Klara Jackl, Interview with Jerzy Pokropek, 17.04.2014