The Trzebuchowski Family

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Story of Rescue - The Trzebuchowski Family

Wacława Trzebuchowska was born in Chodecz in the Kuyavia region, a city with a large Jewish population.

Shortly before the war broke out, the fourteen-year-old Wacława moved to Warsaw, where her two brothers and their mother, Ładysława Trzebuchowska, had been living for a year. Their father, Józef, passed away in 1934.

Sara Wejngart

Sara was normally referred to as “Alicja.” She was born in Chodecz. Her father Chil Mejer Wejngart (b. September 6th, 1898) was a merchant, he owned a haberdashery store. He was a member of the Mizrachi Zionist Party. He was a town councilman in 1927-1939. He was also the representative of Chodecz in the local poviat council assembly.

Alicja Wejngart had been tutoring her younger schoolmate Wacława Trzebuchowska: “We went to one school. She was naturally much older. We were living close by. … She was helping me with my homework, as if I were her younger sister. We became such good friends, and our parents were so close and we were good friends, that even later, when I was already in Warsaw, she’d come to visit us.”

The War

Alicja’s father was killed shortly after the Germans entered Chodecz, one of her brothers died in the frontline, and her other brother and her mother were killed in the Łódź ghetto.

Alicja found shelter in the home of her former tutee. “When they began talking in Chodecz that a ghetto was being set up in Łódź, and that people from the nearby towns would be taken there, she ran off to Warsaw. She came to us and stayed.” Wacława recounts.

During the occupation the Trzebuchowskas were living in a one-bedroom apartment at ul. Karolkowa 62/42. Wacława was working at the bicycle factory on ul. Ząbkowska. This enabled her to help her mother with running the house. Alicja was taking up occasional sewing jobs.

When she moved to ul. Karolkowa, Alicja did not have Aryan papers. Whenever she ventured out, she would use one of Wacława’s IDs. The latter recalls: “back then [Alicja] did not have a [kennkarte]. But they were asking about someone... They were going around asking the neighbors... It wasn’t about [Alicja]. Only that at the time she was writing a letter to the ghetto, to her mother. We heard this heavy stomping in the hallway. … We thought the Gestapo came to get her, but we could hear the steps go further on, and then a moment later they came back, knocked on our door, and came in. But they only asked us about someone, too, and left, because if they thought to check our papers, then the two of us’d only have IDs in the same name to show. I had some work documents, and she had my birth certificate. Because she was thin, petite, and on top of that she didn’t have any papers.”

Ładysława Trzebuchowska obtained forged documents for Alicja in the name “Helena Mędrzycka.”

The Neighbors

The residents of the row-house knew Alicja was Jewish. “She was often staying with us, and what’s important, when she was coming to visit before the war, no one kept it secret that she was Jewish. And later, during the occupation, it was dangerous, because people would see her and we didn’t know how they’d react. People saw her before the war, they knew she was Jewish,” Wacława recalls.

“We were afraid. … there were these incidents, and someone probably let somebody know, because one time a guy came knocking at night. But both me and Alicja had a hunch. We heard it. Because we were living in the fourth floor and were already in bed. And a man is knocking saying he needs to see Wacława. So I came to the door.

And he says ‘Open up, ma’am.’ I say ‘No, I won’t open.’ ‘Why, are you afraid?’ I say: ‘Well, if someone’s knocking at the door at this time, these days, you should be afraid.’ He was haggling with me, haggling, and left eventually. But the neighbors were going out of their apartments during that, because we had a shared toilet in the hall, they were pretending to go to the toilet, and they said he kept his hand in his pocket. That’s how it was back then. And later they told us about it. That he had a gun in his pocket. And in the end, he stopped arguing, I opened the door, just a bit, with the chain, and he acted like he wanted to tell me something important. I say: ‘Go ahead, I’ll give you a pencil and a piece of paper, and you’ll write it down’. ‘No.’ So I say: ‘Well then, I’m going to work tomorrow morning, we can meet up then.’ Still no. He just wanted ... to [come in]. Because he knew Alicja was in there.”

Some of the neighbors were helping: “The Niewiadomskis were on the other side of the hall. I don’t remember the reason, but Alicja left the apartment, she was running and those Niewiadomskis [took her in]. There was some sort of commotion, about Germans or something. So the neighbors took her in. Because they thought they were coming for us.”

The Blackmailers

Wacława relates a situation when three strange men, speaking German, came and threatened to take Alicja to the Gestapo. “One German came, and I think two or three Poles. One was in a uniform, the rest in civilian clothing. … Alicja was standing by the wardrobe and taking some things out. And that one man says: “Das ist diese”- and he pointed to me first. She was hidden behind that wardrobe. And only when he noticed her, he must’ve known who they were there for, he then said: “Nein, nein, das ist diese.” And goes up to her. And goes on, that she’s Jewish, she’s to dress and come with them, they’re taking her ... She already had the fake ID. He said: ‘Well, you have very good documents, but unfortunately they know it at the Gestapo, too.’ And that they had the Jewish girl. And mom said, right, friends, the daughter was crying that she was in danger. And I started crying. I started crying, I threw myself on the bad. And the one who was speaking Polish came to me and said: ‘What, you’re crying? You’re crying for a Jewess?’ And I said: ‘Why, you can’t love a Jewish girl?’ He says: ‘If it was the opposite situation, she wouldn’t cry for you.’ And until today, as long as Alicja was alive, she remembered this. And naturally we gave them some money. Mom made a deal with them. They left us without a penny. What I had, I was saving up to buy a coat.”

Help

On one occasion Ładysława and Wacława Trzebuchowska took in for the night the daughter of an acquainted shoemaker who had escaped from the ghetto. Another time, they helped a group of Jews:

“We were living in the fourth floor, right away there was the staircase, this so-called garret, the attic. And there, in that garret, a few Jews stayed the night. They hid, they couldn’t go to the ghetto, because it was past the curfew. So we made some tea, gave them what food we had, and they went to the garret, until the time the janitor opened the gate.”

Leaving Warsaw

Eight days after the beginning of the Uprising the three women wound up in the Pruszków camp, and later in Świdnica. Initially they worked at a glove factory, and later in the Heliowat Wörke munitions factory for nine months.

Alicja used documents in the name “Alicja Trzebuchowska” and was introduced as Wacława’s sister. Although Wacława had an opportunity to leave the camp, she decided to stay because of her mother and Alicja.

After the War

After the war the three women returned to Chodecz. A squad of Soviet soldiers was stationed there. One of the men, Salek Reicher, became Alicja’s husband. They moved to Wrocław. In 1946 their son Samuel was born. In the 1950s they emigrated to Israel, and subsequently settled in Brazil.

Initially Wacława and Alicja maintained regular contacts; later the contact faded, and it was only years later that they reconnected.

The Reichers visited Poland on three occasions, in 1987, 1988, and 1990. During their first visit, Alicja wrote down the statement which constituted the grounds for awarding Wacława and Ładysława titles of Righteous Among the Nations.

“They read out my name, for me to receive it, and I said I was happy and proud that I was able to save at least one human life.’ ”

Alicja Reicher died in Brazil in 2004.

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349, 962
  • Maksimowska Agata, Interview with Wacława Paczek, 4.04.2009