The Story of the Kiszło Family

Before the War, Jews constituted nearly half of the population of Suchowola (Podlaskie Province). The Germans entered the city in June 1941. Shortly afterwards, the extermination of the Jews began. A ghetto was established in the autumn. Jews were then deported from many Podlaskie locations to a transit camp in Kiełbasin near Grodno. From there, they were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. Among those in Kiełbasin was Symcha Lazar, a resident Suchowola (born 1907) who, with his companions, Marinberg and Moshe Tiktin, decided, in February 1943, to escape from the camp and to return to his hometown of Suchowola.

In the first days following their return, the escapees received help from their friends Gryszkiwicz, Gawarecki and Karbowski, who hid them on their properties and provided them with food. Soon afterwards, they asked the Jews to leave. German units were stationed in Suchowola. For this reason, with the help of Karbowski, the escapees moved to the nearby village of Jaćwieź Wielka (now named Jatwieź Duża). At night, the worthy villagers brought them to Waliński, the Sołtys (village administrator), who was working together with the partisans. He fed the men and, on that same night, asked a young boy to take them to Mr Turel, a famer living on the Jaćwieski estate, not far from the Brzozówka River.

Symcha Lazar knew Turel from before the War. He had long asked for help, but the farmer and his wife were scared to take in the escapees. In the end, Turel helped the Jews, arranging, for payment, a hiding-place on the farm of a friend – a poor farmer with three children. Lazar, Marinberg and Tiktin hid in a dug-out, 1.5 sq.m., in a field. There, they had to endure the harsh conditions of winter. They slept sitting up. In addition, soon afterwards, they were joined by two escapees from the Grodno ghetto – Layzer Marinberg and Itsche Berl Farbsztain. The food provided by Turel, was given to them daily by the dug-out owner under cover of night, so that none of the neighbours would see. The farmer kept the secret of the help he was providing even from his own wife. His nightly exits from the house caused his wife to suspect that he was having an affair.

Rumours began circulating that there were Jews hiding in Jatwieź. Fearing that the hiding-place would be discovered, it was decided to move the men to a nearby village, to the farm of Anna and Adolf Kiszło, poor farmers who lived in the central part of the region. For two days, Lazar, Marinberg and Tiktin stayed in the Kiszło family's basement. They were then moved into the stable loft. There, Adolf, a carpentry specialist, built them a hiding-place 2 metres long and 1.5 metres wide. According to Lazar's memoirs, they remained there for fourteen months.

In that hiding-place, the men had to endure the severe cold of winter and, later, the summer heat, with no access to daylight and dressed in clothes which were washed only every few weeks. Lice tormented them. They were in constant fear for their own lives and for the lives of the Kiszło family, especially when the Germans searched nearby properties. The farmer's children, fifteen-year-old Mania and six-year-old Henryk, were privy to the secret of helping Lazar, Marinberg and Tiktin. It was mainly Mania who brought them food. The men treated her like their own sister. Everything took place in complete secrecy. Food was delivered to them once daily,always at the same time – the time at which the horses and pigs were fed. As much as they were able, the Jews helped the Kiszło family financially.

When the Soviet Army offensive began, the Germans announced to the Sołtys that they would be quartered in the village the next morning. That news shook Adolf and those in hiding. That very day, they decided to return to the dug-out where they had hidden previously.

Adolf drove them there in his wagon – at night, lying down and covered in straw. After a few days spent in the dug-out, they moved to the barn where they remained for several weeks. The owner visited them relatively often, giving them food and informing them of the situation on the front. Soon after, the village residents were evacuated. The men remained in hiding, without food. Exhausted, they tried to obtain food themselves. Thank to their strength of will, they managed to survive that difficult period and lived to see the end of the War.

After the War, Symcha Lazar emigrated to the USA, where he lived to be 100 years old. To the end of the 1970's, he maintained contact with the Kiszło family, expressing his gratitude for what the Podlasie farmers had done for him and for his companions. According to the Kiszło family, Lazar offered to transfer, to the family, a property in the very centre of Suchowola. But the Kiszło family declined the offer, That property currently houses the post office.

The Kiszło family do not know what later happened to Marinberg or Moshe Tiktin.

This article is based in Symcha Lazar's account, which can be read here, as well as the verbal account, given to the article's author, by the Kiszło couple's grandson, Leszek Kiszło.