Swierczynski Bernard Konrad

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Story of Rescue - Swierczynski Bernard Konrad

Bernard Konrad Świerczyński (called Kondek) lived in Warsaw with his parents. He was brought up in a family with left-wing views. His father was a member of the Freethinker Society of Poland, an activist of the Anarchist Federation of Poland. He had a bookshop in the marketplace called Karcelak. He decided that Kondek would study at home so that he would not have to attend religion classes. Kondek was assisted in the preparation for gymnasium examinations by Aniela Wolberg (1907-1937), a famous anarchist activist. The family had warm contacts with many Jews.

From the beginning of the German occupation, Konrad helped his Jewish acquaintances and then he visited them in the ghetto, brought them food, medicines and passed on letters. He also kept close contacts with the Goldberg family who had been his neighbours and friends for many years. The Goldberg's children: Edward, Halina, their youngest sister and Kondek were brought up together.

As he was going out of the ghetto, he fell victim to blackamailers on the so-called “Aryan side”, as a Jew. In his representation he underlined that: "In a specific situation it was safer to pretend to be a Jew than to admit helping Jews as a Pole." The Świerczyńskis' house at 115 Leszno Street was located near the ghetto and served as a transit point and the first shelter for those who escaped. In one of the two rooms was Konrad's mother, bedridden, suffering from bone tuberculosis, whilst the Jews were hiding in the other one. Konrad also found accommodation for them, passed on the financial support and false documents provided for them, arranged medical assistance. He also rented an additional room in the same building where he hid fugitives. He helped 17 people in various forms.

During mass deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the death camp in Treblinka, he helped Halina Goldberg to escape. Konrad installed her in the place of Professor Jan Michał Langiewicz (1905-1985), who taught history in the underground gymnasium named after Bolesław Prus at 10 Jasna Street. Konrad also hid Halina's brother, Edward, with his wife Maria.

Konrad took care of the Szlamowicz (Rogalski) family: Jan (Paweł), his wife Helena (Edwarda) and Jan's sister –Felicja Grossman. When Helena Szlamowicz managed to leave the ghetto in August 1942 he, jeopardizing his life, brought her to the hiding place. "My appearance left no doubts as regards my origin," she wrote in her statement of 1967. He took her to the dentist when she had periostitis. His assistance made it possible for the Szlamowiczs to leave the ghetto and gave them strength to fight for survival. He visited them in the apartment at 54. Sielecka Street "creating through his presence the "Aryan" climate among the neighbours."

Marek Lőw, the anarchist activist (Paweł Lew Mark), his wife Karolina (Lola) and her mother Bronisława Brojde were also under his care. When Marek sought shelter after escaping from the camp in Falenty in February 1943, upon the consent of Professor Langiewicz, Kondek installed him as a caretaker at school. His wife, Karolina, hid there as well.

When Fryda Hofman (Zgodzińska), who during the occupation used the name Franciszka Łańcucka, and Bronka Frydman (Rosłoniec) jumped out of the train after liquidation of the ghetto, he took care of them. He also sheltered and supported the fugitives from Brest, Dr. Zeligson and his wife. He described the symptoms which the Jews hidden by them demonstrated and Dr. Zeligson ordained on such basis. The people under Konrad's care included, among others, Dr. Aleksander Wolberg and Julia and Janek Rozenberg. He knew many of them before the war, for example, he had known Fryda Zgodzińską since 1936. Besides, strangers who learned about the hiding place in Świerczyńskis' place also came to Konrad.

After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, he took part in building a bunker for forty Jews, including two Greek Jews liberated from the camp in Gęsiówka. Konrad, however, left Warsaw with Halina Goldberg.

Jan Paweł Rogalski in his statement made in Warsaw in 1967 wrote: "That we are alive now, we have children, we mostly owe to the gratuitous help of Konrad and people like him,” whilst Paweł Lew Marek underlined: "The moral attitude of [Konrad] to those under his care, whom he comforted through his humour and neglect of dangers and never made anybody feel that he was a benefactor."

Kondek's mother was killed by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising, whilst his father died in 1957. After the war, Kondek married Halina Goldberg. Some of the people he cared for left to the USA and Canada but the majority of them remained in Poland. Paweł Lew Marek was a cooperative activist and a publicist. He described his war experiences in the memoirs entitled Na krawędzi życia. Wspomnienia anarchisty 19431944. Around the year 1989, memoirs were written by Kondek himself, entitled Szmugiel na wagę życia. The material was handed over to do USHMM in Washington.

On 30th January 1972, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Bernard Konrad Świerczyński the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Rozwadowska Halina, Wspomnienia ważne i nieważne, Warszawa 1966
  • Paweł Lew Marek, Na krawędzi życia. Wspomnienia anarchisty 1943-1944, 2006
  • United States Holocaust Mamorial Museum, Szmugiel Na Wagę Życia = Smuggle worth the life
  • Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993

    The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.

  • Yad Vashem, The Langiewicz Family