Szlapak Helena

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Story of Rescue - Szlapak Helena

Dr Helena Szlapak worked as a home visiting doctor of the Social Insurance Office in Cracow and also as a factory doctor. She specialised in gynecology and obstetrics. She joined the activities of the People's Guard of the Polish Socialist Party as well as the activities of the Patronage – an organisation carrying aid intended for prisoners imprisoned on Montelupich Street in Cracow.

Dr Szlapak also belonged to a network called “sieć przyoświęcimska” which passed secret messages to and from the Auschwitz camp, smuggled medicines and cyanide. They also provided wigs from one of Cracow theaters for those preparing to escape from the camp. “Sieć przyoświęcimska”, which was created and commanded for a long time by Adam Rysiewicz, was widely supported, and in March 1943, it was transformed into a Help Committee for Concentration Camp Prisoners. Its members were: Countess Teresa Estreicher-Lasocka, Doctor of Medicine Helena Szlapak, Adam Rysiewicz and Wojciech Jekiełek.

She made her flat on Garbarska Street 12 available for meetings of the activists from the Polish Socialist Party, distribution of underground press, falsification of documents and hiding those at risk. With her cleverness and precautiousness, it was possible to hide and safely store all the secret messages and photographs from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, including the photos of piles of bodies burned at Birkenau. The documents in sealed cans were buried in the backyard garden between flower beds on Salwatorska Street where Helena Szlapak’s sister and mother of Józef Cyrankiewicz lived.

Dr Helena Szlapak collaborated with the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews, taking care of Jews remaining in their hiding-places. She organised for them consultations and hospital stays, as well as false documents. In her flat, there was a contact box which allowed the hiding Jews to communicate between each other.

After the war, Dr Szlapak worked at the Society of Conscious Motherhood and she was a honorary president of its Cracow department for many years.

Bibliography

  • 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.

  • Kłodziński Stanisław, Dr Helena Szlapak, s. 152-155