Witek Zofia

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Story of Rescue - Witek Zofia

During the German occupation, Zofia Witek lived in Lublin at ul. Królewska 15. She was re-settled by the Germans in April 1942 to ul. Grodzka 14 apt. 4. Prisoners of war transported her belongings. One of them, a Jew under the name of Fuchs, was from Lviv. During a short conversation with Zofia, whose family was also from Lviv and who had lived there for many years, he told her that his wife and son Marcel were still in Lviv.

Fuchs appeared at Zofia’s apartment again after two months. He had learned that his wife was dead and that his neighbours took over the care of his son. He asked Zofia to go to Lviv and bring his child back to him. She refused at first but changed her mind eventually and went to Lviv to get the boy. “I pitied him very much and I agreed after some time [...], putting my life in danger because of having to travel by overcrowded trains and in fear of the systematic inspections and arrests carried out by the Germans [...] I went to the address he had provided me with. I took the child from the neighbours and had to leave quickly lest I should be noticed by anyone. I walked along streets, constantly fearing that I was followed. I lived through some horrible moments when the Germans were rounding people up and I barely managed to save my own life and the child’s life by hiding in the gate of a tenement house and then going to the top floor,” she recalled.

The journey back was not a simple affair due to constant inspections by the Germans and it became even more dangerous because it was relatively easy to check whether or not a boy was Jewish. In spite of this, they managed to reach Lublin safely and Marcel’s father came to Zofia after four days. “Despair in his eyes, he said that he had nowhere to hide the child and that I was his only chance. He begged me many times to take the boy in.” Despite her fears for the safety of herself and the child, Zofia Witek agreed to keep Marcel at her place. “I remembered my own orphanhood. I had no parents to look after me when I was a child. I took the boy in, offering him shelter and means of sustenance and sharing all dangers with him,” she recalled after the war.

She received anonymous letters for several months, accusing her of hiding a Jewish child, but she nevertheless kept helping the boy. In particularly dangerous times, she would take Marcel with herself to her relatives or friends living in other towns. The boy’s father visited them three more times before Zofia lost contact with him. During their last meeting, he gave her the address of a relative of his living in the USA in case he did not survive the war. Zofia and the boy saw the end of the occupation.

Fuchs did not return after the war. Zofia Witek asked the Jewish Committee in Lublin what she should do next. Unfortunately, due to her failing health and poor financial standing, she was no longer able to look after the child. Marcel was taken away two months later by Maria Zylber from the Jewish Committee. The child was sent to Israel. “I have to say that my heart bled when I gave him away - I loved Macel like he were my own child,” Zofia said with emphasis. After two more months went by, Marcel’s aunt from the USA came forth. In 1949, she notified Zofia Witek that she found the boy but, unfortunately, failed to bring him to the USA from Israel. In the 1950s, Zofia still maintained contact with Marcel.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Zofii Witek, 349/24/700