Proczek’s family story written down by Michał Bożek

Before the 1st of September 1939 afew thousands of Jews lived in Łaskarzew and its surroundings. Only few managed to survive the war. In fact, it can be referred to all the pre-war Jewish communities in Poland.

On the 9th of December, 1942, in the village of Kolonia Dabrowa near Łaskarzew, a murder of a Polish family hiding Jews, took place. Apparently, it was the only recognized killing of Poles for hiding Jews in the neighborhood of Garwolin. It might be said that this German proceeding was standard in such cases. A dozen of military policemen (and probably a few of Gestapo officers) surrounded the farm of Tomasz Proczek and executed him and his entire family. The Germans found the two Jews who were hiding there and shot them while they were fleeing.

The Proczek’s consisted of seven people: Proczek Tomasz, born in 1874, his wife - Proczek Jadwiga, born in 1886, the eldest daughter, Marianna Sieńska (nee Proczek, born in 1914), their son Stanislaw (born 1923) and another daughter Natalia (born in 1920)) and their youngest daughter Alexandra, who was 12 years old. The eldest son of Tomasz Proczek, Jan, who had his own family, was spared as they lived in a separate house but at the same farm.

When the Germans entered their house they immediately killed five of them: Tomasz, Jadwiga, Marianna, Natalia, and Stanislaw. The youngest daughter, Alexandra, only survived because she was visiting Nowotniak’s family, their neighbors.

The memories of the only survived girl describe that the Germans shot the Proczek’s family in a backyard. The corpses were left at the spot where the family was shot. And according to Jan Proczek’s son, Mieczyslaw, who as a small child witnessed the execution of his grandfather and his family, the Germans stole boots that belonged to shot Stanislaw. These were called “officer’s boots” and they are visible on the enclosed photo. The Germans robbed everything that showed any value.

When the Germans left the village, the bodies were taken to a barn by the neighbors. Alexander's daughter, 12 year old girl, was not allowed to see the scene of crime. The burial of the corpses was arranged by the oldest son, Jan, who survived due to the fact that he lived in a separate house. The family was buried in the parish cemetery in Łaskarzew.

Except the Proczek’s family, the two Jews hiding there were murdered as well. We hardly know anything about them besides the fact that they came from Łaskarzew and they were cobblers. We also know that the family knew them before the war. How long were they hiding there and what were their names we probably will never find out, for simple reason - the fewer people knew about their hiding the safer they were and the safer was the Proczek’s family. Probably, only the elder members of the family knew about the hiding as it was better not to tell children about such things. How much the secrecy was important shows the fact that Aleksandra, the daughter, did not know anything about this situation.

By the end of September 1942 the liquidation of the ghetto in Łaskarzew began (the Holocaust place for Łaskarzew’s Jews was a concentration camp in Treblinka, but at least a few dozen were killed by the Germans in the city and in the nearby woods).

The two Jews hidden by the Proczek’s family were probably escapees from the ghetto. It might have been possible that they had come to the Proczek’s earlier. They could have also spent some time in the woods and when winter came Tomasz Proczek gave them shelter. What really happened - we will probably never find out. The witnesses, who could tell us more about them, are no longer alive.

According to a written relation of Mrs. Aleksandra Sroka (nee Proczek) "One Jew was killed while fleeing towards a warbler in the woods and he was buried there later by a village leader, Mr. Gorka. The second Jew was shot when running in the direction of Uścieniec estate and was buried there. "

Their remains could be probably still found in a place of their burial. It is unlikely that anyone dared to dig them out during the war. Moreover, their burial could not take place at the Jewish cemetery as it was destroyed. After the war, it could not be an issue of interest to the communist authorities either, so they probably have not been exhumed.

However, one can ask a question: how come that the Germans knew about the hiding place of the Jews. They came in a well-organized way to a particular person at a particular address in the very morning. It is unlikely that they had been observing the village and accidentally discovered the Jews. Unfortunately, in most of such cases, it was a denunciation. The information had to be reliable, so that the Germans decided to come and found the hidden Jews. Perhaps the person who informed on them was offered some money and sacrificed the life of seven innocent people for a handful of silver coins. We will never discover the truth.

After the war JanProczek and his family together with his sister Alexandra moved to the north of Poland (Pomorze). However, they have not forgotten about the family tragedy. Jan Proczek and his sister built a monument to the memory of their parents and siblings in the parish cemetery in Łaskarzew.

Unfortunately, the cemetery monument is the only memento of the family. Despite the passage of 66 years, the memory of the Polish family, who diedbecause they had helped their Jewish neighbors, has not been properly honored. Undoubtedly, some steps should be taken to commemorate this heroic act even in a symbolic way.

Not only the commemoration of the Proczek’s family should take place but the exhumation and burial of the killed Jews should be preceded. Until today their bodies remain buried in a placeof theirexecutioninstead of the Jewish cemetery.

In the era of accusing the Poles of anti-Semitism and collaboration with the enemy, restoring the common memory of peoplewho were murdered for helping the Jews, could contribute to the positive image of Poland and the Polish people.

Michał Bożek