Wladyslaw Kowalski

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Story of Rescue - Wladyslaw Kowalski

Klara Jackl, based on work by Anna Goleniec-Wywiał, July  2013

Władysław Kowalski came from a noble family. By profession, he was an administrator. During World War I, he fought first in the Russian Army, later in the Polish Army. He resigned his job in 1935 and began working for the Philips company in Warsaw. Just as in the army, he got on well with his Jewish subordinates and co-workers. During the Nazi occupation, he took on the mission of saving Jews.

Bruni Boral was the first whom he saved. In the summer of 1940, Boral accosted him in the street and asked for food. Kowalski took him to his home at 111 Pańska street, arranged false documents for him, registered his as a resident in Praga and for work at the Philips company.

After the establishment of the Warsaw ghetto, Kowalski organised his Philips co-workers in helping former employees who were now living behind the ghetto walls. On the recommendation of the management, he entered the ghetto, having been supplied with a special pass. ”Under the pretext of collecting debts, my task was to search for those people whom, with the help of the company, I could lead out of the ghetto and place somewhere where they could wait out the War”. In July 1941, he placed one of his friends from work, Seweryn Sznajderman, his wife Zula and daughter Basia, into the apartment of his friend, Tadeusz Szadkowski, at 22 Radzymińska street.

In August 1941, Władysław Kowalski helped the Rubin family – the lawyer Filip, his sister Karolin and brother Jankiel and wife Balbin. They were hiding in the ruins of a Warsaw tenement building. Kowalski took them to his own apartment. Filip and Jankiel argued loudly which endangered everyone. After a few months, Kowalski separated them and found them somewhere else to stay.

In the autumn of 1942, with the help of Piotr Bojko, Kowalski extracted the four-member Rozen family, from Zamość, from the Izbica ghetto - Chaim, Ada, their daughter Malwina and Chaim’s sister, Wanda. He brought them to the apartment of his friend Col. Zdzisław Szczepanowski, at 5 Jasna street.

In February 1943, he extracted a seven-member family from the Warsaw ghetto - Józef and Rachela Tylia, Lea Bucholc, Aron and Helena Bialer, plus Mieczysław and Barbara Rezyk. He placed the Tylia family in the apartment of Col. Jan Babecki at przy 11 Tamka street. He took Lea Bucholc to his friend Franciszek Majewski in Tarczyn near Warsaw. The Bialer and Rezyk couples he hid himself.

”All four were suffering badly from malnutrition. They were wounded and bruised from being beaten. I was confident that I could keep them alive in where I was taking them. […] I was spiritually concerned. What would I do if one of them died? […] But, slowly, everything turned out alright. They all returned to health”.

In the summer of 1943, Władysław heard of the difficult circumstances of eight Jews hiding in Praga at Ząbkowska street. They were Roman and Cypora Fiszer, Roman’s sister, Bina Bergman, his brother Mordechaj and his fiance Tusia Sakowicz, Seweryn and Wanda Waholder, plus Baruch Goldfarb. The group was being persecuted by Polish collaborators. Kowalski decided to bring the Jews to his apartment.

It was intended that twelve people would be hidden at Pańska street, so a hiding place for them had to be constructed.

”With the help of Roman Fiszer, we succeeded in creating a hiding place by erecting a new wall across the whole length of one of the rooms”.

Kowalski gradually brought the rest of the people to his apartment. By some miracle, they avoided death while bringing Bina Bergman. They encountered a German control. ”We were travelling on a cart and only thanks to the alterness of the driver that we emerged from the control. While they were checking our papers, the guard looked Binia Bergman straight in the eyes, pulled aside her scarf which she had around her head […] and began yelling Jew! Jew!. Self-confidently, our driver then started yelling, just as loudly as the German, Jew? What Jew? I don’t drive with Jews!. After which, he pulled out 200 złoty, and before the guard worked out what was happening, shoved it into his hand”.

Hiding such a large number of people cost a great deal. In the beginning, those being hidden contributed to their upkeep, but the money soon ran out. Kowalski then came upon the idea of producing toys at home which could then be sold to toy shops.

From September 1943 until the end of July 1944, the Germans searched Władysław’s apartment three times. However, they never found the hiding place. Following the third search, Władysław was taken to the Gestapo station but , thanks to acquaintances, he was released.

In August 1944, during the Uprising, Kowalski’s apartment was bombed. Everyone had to go down to the basement, but they quickly had to evacuate from there. They moved from place to place seeking shelters in basementsof different buildings. Władysław led the group.

”Other Jews, new and not known to me, joined us during our wanderings. They sensed my positive attitude towards them. They looked towards me for support. I took these  people in and, through my actions, tried to let them know that they could count on me”.

By then, the group consisted of thirty people – added to the group were the doctor Zev and Helena Beck, Jakub Karol, Szaja, Ruth and Liwia Ginsburg, Roman and Chana Noszczyk, Menachem and Chana Justin, the doctor Baruch Dżima, Karolina and Jakub Mark, Pola Gleniec, Zygfryd and Bronka Rosłaniec, Adam and Ela Czarec, Joachim and Chawa Stach, Izaak and Mela Szer, Abraham Szabaton and his grandson Kuba Szabaton, Gienek Szabaton and his wife Bronka, and Henek Szabaton and his wife Miriam (sons of Abraham Szabaton), as well as the brothers Adam and Natan Knobloch. Those whom Kowalski had earlier placed with friends also joined the group. The group now numbered 56 people.

After the fall of the Uprising, they all remained together in Warsaw in hiding. Kowalski arranged a spacious bunker in the basement of a bombed-out building at 20/22 Sienna street. They bricked up the window and created a ditch to the sewer by which they could escape when danger threatened. They built a stove for cooking and a toilet. They anticipated staying there for two, maybe three weeks. They stayed there for a few months – until January 1945. Their food supplies ran out quickly. They survived on boiled water with sugar which they had plenty of, and vitamin C tablets. Living there was hard. Mordechaj Fiszer died. His body was buried in the bunker.

On 19th January 1945, they emerged from hiding. The majority of them managed to getto Łódż, and later go to other countries, among them being Israel, Canada, the United States, France, Belgium and Brazil.

Władysław Kowalski remained in contact with Roman and Cypora Fiszer, Bina Bergman, Adam and Ela Czarecki Mieczysław and Barbara Rezyk, Zygfryd and Bronka Rosłaniec. In 1947, he married one of those whom he rescued, Lea Bucholc, with whom, in 1957, he left for Israel. From 1962, he worked at the Yad Vashem Institute.


  • Marta Pietrzykowska, Interwiev with Cypora Fiszer, 1.06.2008
  • Archiwum Yad Vashem