Rybakiewicz Janusz

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Story of Rescue - Rybakiewicz Janusz

Before the war, the Rawicki family lived in Płock, where the father, Abraham, managed an agricultural machine and tool plant, while the mother, Zonia (Szyfra) (nee Finkelstein) ran the house. They had three children: daughters Stefania Ludwika and Felicja, and son Jerzy. Jerzy attended a cheder and then a public elementary school.

When a ghetto was established in Płock in 1940, the Rawicki family had to move there. In early October, the town became part of the lands directly incorporated into the Third Reich. The Jewish community was forced to pay a ransom for the release of prominent community members who were arrested as hostages. Men were caught to perform forced labour, they were robbed, bitten up and humiliated. When this happened to a group of Jews living in the same street, Abraham decided to escape to Warsaw. The mother and the children stayed in Płock.

In February and March 1941, the Germans transported all Jewish inhabitants of Płock to the Działdów camp and other small towns in the Radom district. During the round-up, the grandmother was shot dead in her bed. The Rawickis were first sent to Kielce and then to Bodzentyn. The mother and her daughters and son lived in very poor conditions there. Stefania fell ill with typhus. Felicja used to sneak out of Bodzentyn to trade and get some food for the family.

According to Felicja Rawicka’s account, she and her brother escaped to Starachowice in the autumn of 1942 because they had heard that Jews were still working there in factories. They hoped to find jobs there. When they reached their destination, they were told that all Jews had been deported from Bodzentyn in an unknown direction.

Felicja and Jerzy decided to go to Warsaw. They received money for the train tickets from a Jewish acquaintance from Płock. In Warsaw, Felicja managed to arrange for herself false documents in the name of Rakowska and she claimed to be a young widow. Jerzy sneaked into the ghetto to find his father. He kept in touch with his sister who had managed to find a cashier job in a cafe in the Żoliborz district.

At that time, Felicja’s and Jerzy’s father was still in the ghetto working in the Toebens’s workshop. Jerzy used to come out of the ghetto with groups of Jews who were taken out to posts and served as a courier for the Jewish underground. He quite often went on dangerous trips outside the ghetto and returned there soon before the outbreak of the uprising. He managed to escape when the battles were nearly over. In order to see his sister, he went to Żoliborz where he slept in summer houses in parks.

Having nowhere to go, Jerzy went to a beach at the River Vistula, where he met some of his peers with whom he spent the afternoon. One of the new friends was Janusz Rybakiewicz, whom Jerzy told he was Jewish. Janusz invited him to his home and decided to help him. He told the story to his mother only, because he was afraid of his father’s reaction. The mother prepared a hideout for Jerzy in a cellar filled with coal.

Soon after, Jerzy’s sister arranged documents for him in the name of Rakowski. He then moved to Daromin near Kielce, where he joined the Peasants’ Battalions (Polish: Bataliony Chłopskie). He managed to get across the front line and reached Lublin.

Jerzy was in Lublin at the time when the post-war trial of the Majdanek staff was held. Then he moved to Wrocław where he started to study law. He found his sister in Radom. In 1947, Felicja moved to England and then to Israel. Jerzy first went to Sweden and then to the USA where their aunt Sally Victor lived. He worked as an optician.

In an interview for the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw in 2013, Jerry said in a voice full of pain: “After the war I forgot about him because I wanted to forget about the Holocaust.” Still, after a number of years, already in the US, he started to look for Janusz. He found out with the Red Cross that Janusz had been arrested by the Germans as a hostage and killed.

In 2007, Jerry published Sins and Sorrow, where he described his experiences during the Holocaust. He is active in Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, he meets youth and tells stories about the fate of his family. In 2008, he gave an interview to be included in the collections of the Museum.

In 2007, the Yad Vashem Institute decided to grant Janusz Rybakiewicz the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Dagmara Mańka-Wizor, Interview with Jerry Rawicki, 19.04.2013
  • Rawicki Jerry, Sins and Sorrow, 2007