I Wish it Could be a Dream. Memoirs by Maksymilian Jarosz
Maksymilian Jarosz was the youngest of all nine children in the family of Anna and Ignacy Jarosz. A few of his brothers, active in the underground movement, died at the hands of the Nazi occupant.
The Jarosz family lived in Piaski located in the Lublin land. The father of the family ran a household and a building company. In his youth, he was repressed by the Tsarist authorities for his socialist activity. He was also active in the office of the Piaski district.
Before World War II, the inhabitants of the Jewish origin in Piaski constituted nearly two-thirds of its whole population. In the town, there were, among others, a synagogue, school, library and two Jewish cemeteries. According to Maksymilian Jarosz, in case of any disagreements between the neighbors, the roles of arbiters were played by a local priest and rabbi.
After the outbreak of World War II, Piaski came under the Nazi occupation. The new authorities introduced a series of restrictions afflicting the Jews: among others the Jewish inhabitants were forced to wear bands with the star of David and were forbidden to leave the town. New transports of Jews deported from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Moravia and other regions incorporated into the Third Reich began to arrive in Piaski. In one of such transports was Wolf Lewin and his two daughters, Hana and Gertruda. The Jarosz family accepted the Lewins under their roof. Nevertheless, when the town of Piaski was divided into two parts (the “Aryan” side and the Jewish side), Lewin and his daughters had to move to the ghetto.
The Jarosz family did whatever they could to help not only their new Jewish friends, but also many other acquaintances they knew from before the war who were now forced to live in the ghetto. They provided them mainly with food and other things indispensable for survival. They helped the Jews to, for example, procure false identity cards. One of Maksymilian’s brothers called Aleksander brought cattle to the town, which was possible thanks to his trade connections with local farmers.On the other hand, his sister Marianna, who worked in medical service, smuggled medicines and took care of the sick in the ghetto. The members of the Jarosz family, of whom almost all were active in the underground movement, also cooperated with the Jewish Combat Organization. They supplied the ghetto combatants with weapon and ammunition. Of course, any help for the Jews entailed the risk of losing one's life. One time, Maksymilian witnessed an incident in which a Polish woman was shot while smuggling food to the ghetto.
In June 1942, the Nazis organized the first deportation of Jews from the Piaski ghetto.The Jewish population was deported to a transfer camp in Trawniki, and from there to Sobibór or Bełżec extermination camps.In one of those transports were also Lewin’s daughters.Wolf Lewin managed to evade the round-up. Next, thanks to Marianna Jarosz’s help, he found shelter on the Aryan side of the town.Still, drawn by longing or driven by despair, he left his hiding place and returned to his former apartment in the ghetto.Soon, he shared the fate of his daughters and died in Bełżec.
One of the most tragic days in the Piaski ghetto was “Bloody Wednesday” in November 1943. On this day, the Gestapo police murdered all the sick they found in the ghetto hospital. Also the Jewish cemetery became a silent witness to the mass murder performed there. The Jews were driven to the pits that had been previously dug out there; they were ordered to stand on the board one after another and then were shot in their heads. Their bodies were covered with lime and soil. Maksymilian Jarosz remembers a local rumor saying that there was a wounded man who somehow managed to get out from the pile of bodies and tried to rescue himself… but to no avail.
In 2001, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded the medal “Righteous Among the Nations” to Maksymilian Jarosz and, posthumously, to his relatives: parents, brother Aleksander and sister Marianna.