Story of rescue

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“They took Pruchniewicz away to Jasło from where he never returned” – the story of the Pruchniewicz family

Jehuda Leib Blum, together with his wife Trana, daughter Reizel and cousin Mosze Kuflik from z Dukla, lived in Biecz, at (what was then) 11 Piłsudskiego Street. Blum sold ready-to-wear clothing and owned a mercer store. As a result, he had extensive contact with his Polish neighbours. When the War broke out and the town’s Jews began to be persecuted, he hid some of his belongings with a few families with whom he had been friendly. One of those families was Maria and Józef Pruchniewicz, who lived in Przedmieście Dolne.

As with other Jews in 1940, the Blum family were forced to live in the Biecz ghetto. On 15th August 1942, during the liquidation of the ghetto, the family, together with a few others, hid themselves in a hiding place which had been prepared in advance. On the morning of the following day, the Jews left Biecz and hid in a nearby forest.

After a few months of nomadic living, in December 1942, the Blum family came to Maria and Józef Pruchniewicz. The family took in the fugitives and hid them in a specially prepared room in the stable.

After a certain time, the neighbours began to suspect that the Pruchniewicz couple were hiding Jews. For fear of being denounced and fearing for the lives of his family, Józef refused to hide Blum any longer. After the War, Jehuda Leib wrote, “For sixteen months, I was hidden by a Pole on the outskirts of the town. I could not stay there any longer, because the Pole began to become scared”.

In November 1943, the Blumfamily left Przedmieście Dolne. At the beginning, they hid in the forest but, in the end, they found shelter on the Dyląg farm in Strzeszyn. There, they remained until the end of the War. Unfortunately, Trana Blum, Jehuda Leib’s wife, did not survive. She died as the resuly of a tragic accident.

Her husband describes the circumstances, “We always used a paraffin lamp to light up the room. One day, the paraffin caught fire and that fire burned my wife, who died after thirteen days of terrible suffering. We buried her in secret and, after liberation, we moved her to the Jewish cemetery”.

In March 1944, one of their neighbours reported, to the Gestapo, the the Pruchniewicz hid Jews. The Germans soon made a search. Józef was beaten, arrested and jailed on Jasło. It was there that he was murdered.

Jehuda Leib wrote, “After three months of hiding with the other Pole, the Germans found out about our hiding place with the first Pole (Pruchniewicz), on the town outskirts. They looked for me there and the Pole was badly beaten. He confessed that he had, in fact, hidden me but had then chased me away. They set him free and began searching for me. After a few days, the Germans found out who had hidden me. They took that Pole (Pruchniewicz) away to Jasło from where he never returned”.

Józef was buried in a nameless, mass grave in Warzyce. The family found out about the shooting from a notice – a so-called poster of death. Today, at the Biecz cemetery, Pruchniewicz has a symbolic grave.

Bibliography

  • Archiwum Instytutu Yad Vashem, Relacja Heleny Pruchniewicz, 11444
  • Jehuda Leib Blum, Samuel Deborah Weinfeld, Memorial book of the Martyrs of Biecz, Ramat-Gan 1960