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"They would come in the evenings and stay for the night in our home" - the Story of Eryk Lipiński and Anna Gosławska-Lipińska

During the occupation, Eryk Lipiński, cartoonist, caricaturist, co-creator of the "Szpilki” magazine, co-founder of the Caricature Museum and his wife Ha-Ga (her artistic pseudonym), also an artist, opened their home to Jews, who were close and not-so-close friends and who were seeking shelter. Lipiński also specialised in creating false documents and medical certificates, thanks to which some prisoners in the Pruszków transit camp were able to get out.


Co-creator of the "Szpilki” Satirical Weekly 

Eryk Lipiński had lived in Warsaw since the age of thirteen. Even by then he had experienced Kraków and Moscow. He grew up in Russia, having spent almost ten years there with his family. His father, Teodor Rawicz Lipiński, an artist, was associated with the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). At the end of his life, he live in Settlement 1 of the Warsaw Housing Cooperative in Żoliborz. In his memoirs, Eryk Lipiński wrote, "My father's funeral was a huge event. […] Plac Wilsona was filled with delegations and with lots of red flags".

Eryk graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, which he mentioned as one of the few educational institutions where antisemitic speeches were not heard.

"All attempts were nipped in the bud thanks to the strong activity of the local organisation 'Life' - the Association of Independent Socialist Youth. […] We had combat training for skirmishes with the nationalists at the university and in many street demonstrations.”

During one of the "skirmishes", students from the Academy of Fine Arts battled with the nationalist youth, splattering them with oil paint. "Their clothes were not smeared with any patterns - only […] splattered in the Taszystowski style - against the fascists”.

At the end of the 1920's, Eryk Lipiński made his debut as a caricaturist and, from 1935, he co-managed the satirical weekly "Szpilki”. Among other topics, its pages ridiculed antisemitism. On 1st April 1938, the magazine released an appendix which parodied a National Democratic (Endek) periodical.

"In an article entitled 'Jews Must Answer Either One Way or Another!', he ridiculed […] the theme of Endek magazines, which scared their readers using horrible news about Jews on every page”.

In the following June, the creators appeared in court.

"The indictment concerned two jokes which were found to be pornographic in nature. […] We did not confess to the charge, explaining that our intention was to ridicule  what was journalistic nonsense, […] as well as to ridicule the Jew-baiting press. […] The prosecutor, a police officer, caused a great deal of laughter when he said that 'the accused have written in an excited manner and are guilty of arousing sexual excitement'”.

Lipiński was sentenced to three months gaol, suspended for two years.

"The graphic layout was perfect. Eryk Lipiński is really talented. It is a pity that he has sold himself to the scabs and that he addictively uses the Jews. It is a sad life to have to bow before every pleabian Jew”, wrote author Karol Zbyszewski, in April 1939, in the pages of "Prosto z mostu” ("Straight From the Bridge"), a weekly associated with the nationalist movement, when reviewing the publlication for which Lipiński drew the illustrations.

Ha-Ga - Cartoonist for "Szpilki”

Hanna Gosłowska debuted as a cartoonist in the pages of "Szpilek” in 1936. She adopted the pseudonym of "Ha-Ga". Hann met Eryk through her brother Zbigniew. They studied together and were married in 1937.

One year after the outbreak of the War, Eryk Lipiński was caught in a street round-up and sent to Auschwitz (prisoner No.2022). He recalled:

"We were forced through the gate with the inscription Arbacht macht Frei, next to which two bodies lay, as a momento for those newly-arrived. […] I found myself in inhuman conditions. All I thought about was easting, getting warm, avoiding getting beaten and surviving until the next day.”

He returned to Warsaw at the end of 1940, thanks to the efforts of his wife and his friends.  

The Lipiński Home During the Occupation

"Our group of closest friends included Ewa and Stefan Otwinowski, Maria Zenowiczówna, my wife's school friend, and her future husband Kazimierz Brandys (at the time using the surname Borowiecki), Jerzy Korabiowski and Stanisław Dygat”. They would come in the evenings and stay for the night - an early curfew hour prevented them from returning home. "These events would most often be held in our [..] home”.

"It was a haven for Polish Jews and asylum was never denied them there", attested Ewa Otwinowska. In her account, the apartment at ul. Puławskiej 1, one of several in which they lived during the occupation, as full of temporary tenants. "The refugees from the ghetto would stay with me for several days until they found safe refuge”, recalled Eryk Lipiński.

From spring 1940 to autumn 1942, Jerzy Korabiowski (Wilhelm Wind), a poet, journalist and actor stayed with them. Considered as one of the most popular members of the Wesoła Lwowska Fala, known for the role of Counselor Strońcia, author of satirical works, he also appeared in parody sketches of well-known radio broadcasters. He perished in August 1944, in the prison on aleja Szucha, during the first days of the Warsaw Uprising.

In 1943, Olga Siemaszkowa (Binder), a visual artist, lived with the Lipiński couple. As a member of the Union of Soviet Artists, she had exhibited in Kiev and in Moscow. The War found her in Lwów. From there, she travelled to Częstochowa, where she was blackmailed. Lipiński then brought her to Warsaw. After the War, she worked as the artistic director of "Świerszczyka”. She worked together with the Czytelnik publishing house and created posters for the Central Film Studio.

Others to benefit from help provided by the Lipiński couple were Stanisław and Irena Kuczborski. Irena, a painter, was a friend of the Lipińskis from before the War. Stanisław Kuczborski attested:

"In 1942, I received a secret message from the ghetto with the news that Maryla Spielrein, her adult son Ryszard and her young daughter […] had the opportunity to illegally leave the ghetto”.

The letter contained a request to meet and information that the family had nowhere to go.

"Since my apartment was out of the question, I turned to Eryk for help, who provided it without hesitation”.

False Documents for Ghetto Escapees

Lipinski made false documents, records and identity card for Poles, among them many Jews. He personally extracted several people out of the ghetto. "He was caught with a false pass to the ghetto and, for that, spent four months in a Mokotow prison", advised Ewa Otwinowska.

"I don't remember names and I usually didn't know them. I arranged false documents for, for example, Jakub Bickels [ed: who died in the uprising] and for his wife and registered them at my brother-in-law's address - for Kazimierz Brandys, Lidia Birsten [...], Ignacy Grycendler with his wife and many others [...]."

"We were friends [...] with an excellent caricaturist Jakub Bickels who, by profession, was a psychiatrist [...]". In the autumn of 1942, on ul. Marszałkowska, two men forcibly led him to the gate, where they asked him for documents. Bickels broke free, but they held onto his coat with the false documents in their hands. "Of course, he came to us. We lived with my wife's parents at ul. Chmielna 35. [...] Bickels had dressed in my fur coat and a woman's hat shaped such that it looked like a man's (my mother-in-law ran a hat workshop [...]), so that he could go out on the street. Unfortunately, his fake papers remained in his coat", recalled Lipiński on one of the events related to his help to those in hiding.

Lida Birsten (née Gutmer) met Lipiński at the beginning of the occupation, just after Lipinski's return from Auschwitz:

"From the earliest moment in our relationship, Eryk and Hanka embraced me with warmth and care. They showed me friendship which, in these terrible times, was the most important thing needed for the moral strength of my survival on fake papers, after the loss of all my loved ones."

W 1941 r. wyprowadził z getta znajomego fotografa o nazwisku Nosanowicz. Umieścił go w laboratorium przy ul. Miodowej, gdzie pracował i mieszkał. „[…] zarobione pieniądze przekazywałem rodzinie jego do getta. Nie wytrzymał jednak nerwowo i wrócił za mury. Początkowo odwiedzałem go i pomagałem (miał żonę i córeczkę), ale kiedy przeprowadził się, straciłem ich ślad”, zapisał Eryk Lipiński.

In 1941, he led a friend, the photographer Nosanowicz, out of the ghetto. He placed him into a laboratory on ul. Miodowa, where he worked and lived. Eryk Lipiński wrote:

"[...] I transferred the money which he earned to his family in the ghetto. He couldn't stand the tension of that situation and returned behind the walls. Initially, I visited and helped him (he had a wife and a daughter), but when he moved, I lost knowledge of their whereabouts".

"I was in constant contact with Dr Stanisław Rubinrot, whose son was my friend and partner in graphics work. I arranged all financial and other matters for him on the Aryan side and provided him with food. I found an apartment for him, hife and daughter in Klembów near Warsaw.”

Dr Rubinrot moved to the ghetto in Łódż and contact wasa broken off.

Jesienią 1942 r. został aresztowany i skazany na cztery miesiące. Trafił do więzienia przy ulicy Rakowieckiej na Mokotowie. „Złapano kogoś z fałszywą przepustką do getta, kogoś przyciśnięto, ktoś coś powiedział, i tak po nitce do kłębka dotarto do mnie. [...] Na rozprawie […] jak mi poradzili współwięźniowie fachowcy, z fałszywą skruchą przyznałem się do nabycia tej przepustki od jakiegoś pana w urzędzie wystawiającym takie dokumenty. Ów gość twierdził, zeznałem, że jest urzędnikiem, wiec przepustkę uważałem za prawdziwą”.

In the autumn of 1942, he was arrested and sentenced to four months. He was imprisoned at ul. Rakowiecka, in Mokotów.

"Someone with a false pass was caught in the ghetto, someone was under pressurte, someone said something and the ball of thread finally led to me. [...] At the hearing [...], as expert prisoners advised me, I falsely repented for purchasing this pass from a gentleman at the office issuing such documents. I testified that this guy claimed to  be an official, so I thought the pass was real."

Signatures in Coloured Pencils - the Underground in the Pruszków Camp

In one of his letters to his wife:

"Remember, you sewed a collar on a blue shirt for me - it was 1st August 1944 at 10pm. I went out with Olga [ed: Siemaszkow] for dinnaer at Szubertów in Saska Kępa. We were one of the few walking towards the east […]. Shortly after dinner, the shooting began. We weren't sure whether it was an uprising or a Soviet attack on Warsaw. […] I stayed with Olga, cut off from Warsaw and from what was happening. […] We watched the shooting up of Warsaw, the battles for the bridges and the numerous fires. All the time, we were extremely worried about you and, above all, that you woud certainly be worried about us”.

In the middle of August, Eryk Lipiński ended up in the Dulag 121 camp, a German transit camp in Pruszków. Olga Siemaszkowa remained under the care of a friend. He worked as a stretcher-bearer.

In his memoirs, he wrote:

"When I worked out the governing mechanisms of the camp, I decided to act. Firstly, I set up an underground organization, consisting of myself and a sergeant of the Wehrmacht, who obviously did not even realise that he was a part of it. Then I stole coloured pencils from the German doctors (they had a large supply in their drawer) with which they signed the sick lists, and then I learned to fake their signatures which, as a graphic designer, did not cause me much difficulty.From Dr Andrzej Garwicz, I got a list of various diseases in Latin and then I took action."

Wyspecjalizował się w wynajdywaniu w tłumie wysiedlonych osób ze świata kultury i ułatwiania im opuszczenia obozu. Sporządzał m.in. listy fikcyjnie chorych, na których dodatkowo podrabiał podpisy niemieckich lekarzy z obozowej komisji lekarskiej.

He specialized in finding displaced people, from the world of culture, in the crowd and making it easier for them to leave the camp. He prepared, among others things, letters of fictitious patients, on which he additionally forged the signatures of German doctors from the camp medical commission.

Help to Escape Disguised as a Nurse

Prawdopodobnie w połowie października 1944 r. Lipińscy znaleźli się w Częstochowie. Zamieszkała z nimi Krystyna Rutkowska z d. Benzef (Winton). Podczas okupacji mieszkała z mężem przy ulicy Śniadeckich 18. Po spacyfikowaniu miasta i wygnaniu cywilów przez Niemców, została przeszmuglowana z obozu w Pruszkowie przez Eryka Lipińskiego, udawał pielęgniarza. „Zostałam ocalona ze szpitalnego transportu i przewieziona do bezpiecznego domu w Komorowie (który należał do krewnych Lipińskiego). Mieszkało tam około dwudziestu uchodźców, wielu pochodzenia żydowskiego, wszyscy goszczeni i karmieni przez gospodarzy”.

Probably in the middle of October 1944, the Lipiński family found themselves in Częstochowa. Krystyna Rutkowska née Benzef (Winton) was living with them. During the occupation, she lived with her husband at ul. Śniadeckich 18. After the Germans took over the city and expelled civilians, she was smuggled out of the Pruszków camp by Eryk Lipiński, pretending to be a nurse.

"I was saved from hospital transport and transported to a safe house in Komorów (which belonged to Lipiński's relatives). There were about twenty refugees there, many of Jewish descent, all hosted and fed by the hosts."

The Lipiński couple remained In Częstochowa until the end of German occupation. They supported themselves through tailorin - Eryk drew models of dresses and other garments, Ha-Ga, Krystyna and several other women did the sewing. When, after the War, Krystyna Rutkowska returned to Warsaw, Ha-Ga found her a job, thanks to which she was independent and provided temporary shelter to others who were returning to a devastated Warsaw.

After the War

In the 1950's, the Lipiński couple divorced.

Anna Gosławska-Lipińska, "Ha-Ga", continued in her drawing career. She was published in "Przekroj”, "Express Wieczorny”, as well as outside of Poland. She created posters, illustrated books and magazines for chidlren.

Eryk Lipiński became chief editor of "Szpilek”. He also worked with other titles, among which were "Przekroj” and "Trybuna Ludu”. In 1966, he initiated the International Poster Biennale in Warsaw. In 1978, he established the Warsaw Carature Museum, of which he remained Director under his death in 1991.

In 1980, at his initiative, the Community Committee for the Care of Jewish Cemeteries and Heritage Sites in Poland was established.

In  1991, he was honoured with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations".

Other Stories of Rescue in the Area

Bibliography

  • Eryk Lipiński, Pamiętniki, 2016
  • Eryk Lipiński, Wspomnienia z Auschwitz, Polskie Radio [audycja 24.01.2011]
  • Encyklopedia Muzeum Dulag 121, Lipiński Eryk – noszowy w obozie Dulag 121