The Schnitzer Family

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Story of Rescue - The Schnitzer Family

Józef Schnitzer, father of Maria Huzarska and Julian Michalski – both Righteous-to-be – used to say that “the poor should be fed”.“It was a war (…), nobody counted on being rich.The rich would not help the poor, only the poor could do this" – remembers Maria.

Józef and Józefa Schnitzer had a small household in the village of Majdan Pieniacki (near Brodów, now Ukraine).They had a few cows and 3 hectares of land.Their eldest son was sent by Germans to a labor camp in the Third Reich.Józefa could speak Yiddish. She agreed to hide her friend Rywka together with her family.However, Rywka did not manage to arrive in Majdan – she was caught by Germans while escaping and sent to the ghetto in Brody.

In November 1943, three Jews knocked at the door of the Schnitzers’ house.They were: 60-year-old tailor Kuperman from Sasów, the other tailor in his middle age and a teenage boy Herszko.Maria recollects: “My father went to open the door and looked at those people: they were bare, without any caps, they were trembling, looked terrible, unshaven (…). They knelt down before my father (…). A man have mercy on animals, and let alone on another man who is dying from hunger and cold.”The Schnitzers fed the guests, gave them something to drink, helped to wash them, shaved them and prepare beds for the fugitives in their kitchen.

A few days later the siblings Klara and Handli Brill arrived at the house of the Righteous.The girl was very sick.Józefa began to cure her by applying cups on her back. She also took care of Handli, who was a very timid child.

The Schnitzers had two hiding places at their disposal: one was in the cellar and the second under the barn.Whenever the village was raided by Ukrainian fighting squads, the hiding places were used not only by Jews but also Poles.Herszko was busy helping in the household.Józefa explained to her neighbors that he was the son of her sister.The farmyard was guarded by a dog – when it began barking, it was a signal for the Jews to hide.Maria and Julian kept an eye on their farmyard too, watching out for any strangers.

However, as a result of a denunciation, on February 25, 1944 the house of the Schnitzers was surrounded by Germans.Józefa, her children and the Jewish fugitives managed to hide, but Józef tragically lost his life.

In 1945, the Schnitzer family moved to Poland and settled on the Recovered Territories.However, in the 1960s, they had to change their strange sounding name due to the persecutions they suffered from (according to “Book of the Righteous” edited by Michał Grynberg, Józef Schnitzer himself was of Jewish origin).After the fall of communism in Poland, Maria, by means of an American newspaper, announced that she was looking for any news concerning the Jews rescued by her mother.It was Klara Brill who read the advertisement.Thanks to her testimony, Yad Vashem awarded the Schnitzers with the title “Righteous Among the Nations”.