Saturday, January 28, 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day - UN's day of remembering

I have to admit, growing up I heard about what the Nazi's had done to the Jewish community during World War II. However, it wasn't until I started to actually research the paternal side of my family that it really started to hit home just what had happened.

The things that were done and said can never be undone - unfortunately.

Why had it hit home when doing research on my paternal side
I knew my paternal grandmother had come from Poland, but I never realized where she lived and how close she came to never making it out if she lived there when World War II had happened. People don't realize just how many others, other than Jewish people, were killed during this time.  Once I started to look up the area and the people, I realized just how close one of the camps were to where my relatives used to live. It was soul searching, humbling and eye opening.

The about 18 months ago, I was lucky enough to find a cousin that was still alive and lived IN Poland. When this happened, I was shocked as I was always told that everyone had died while growing up. My grandmother would have a sacred place in her dining room with pictures. She wouldn't even allow me to get close to them unfortunately. Anyway, as I've been getting to know my distant cousin, which has been proven by paperwork, we had once talked about the history and the Holocaust.

I knew we had ancestors which had been assassinated, murdered, arrested by the KGB and the Gestapo and for doing nothing according to the stories. However, during my research I hadn't been able to find any written records for anyone. I asked my distant cousin about this and he hesitated. I know this is a sore point, along with being under communism until the 1980s, so it was a tread very lightly area. I assured him that it was ok and I understood. It wasn't a lie - I did understand after reading some of the journals and watching some documentaries on it. I finally did get around to watching Schindler's List as I knew what it was about but had never had the money to actually watch it. I've also watched many documentaries on it as well as getting as many sources as you can is where you get more rounded education rather than just one or two main sources.

The Family and the Holocaust

However, the cousin did tell me about our family's involvement in the Holocaust. I have to say even all these months later, I am still stunned. Awed. And very proud.

My paternal great grandmother, Maryanne Slepowronska Wotjkowska was 1 of 4 children. Her sister was Zofia (or Sofia) Slepowronska who married Edward Wyrzykowski. Edward and Zofia are my cousin's grandfather.

From my cousin - my great aunt Zofia(Sofia)

From my cousin - my great uncle Edward
Taken from Wikipedia
 Edward was a government employee. In 1936, he was hired on as Mayor of Kobylka (which is near Warsaw in Poland). When the war broke out in September 1939, he remained at his post as mayor. He BIP or the Bulletin of Public Information or now called Bureau of Information and Propaganda. It was created in the Spring of 1940 when Germany occupied Poland. He knew German well which was a huge plus. What many people didn't know was he was also a member of Polish Underground State.

In this group, they would do things like:

 In short he was a collaborator of the Polish Underground Army. He was perfect for this position as he was a great organizer on top of being the mayor which he would have had access to the information Poland needed.
Flag of the Polish Underground State

However, this was a very dangerous place to be as if they were found out, they would have been murdered. As if that wasn't enough, Edward defended and represented the residents of Kobylka from the Nazi's.

This was putting it mildly about representing and defending these residents because our family did so much more.Here is a small list of what he had done for these residents:

  • Defended them against outward movement to forced labor in Germany
  • Looked after any refugees who lost their homes
  • Organized medical services and feeding areas for mothers with children whose fathers were in the war or had died
  • They hid many Jewish families and children
  • Placed children in the catholic monasteries of nuns for protection
  • Paid for their care within the monasteries
  • Made false Aryan documents

BIP helped and cooperated with him for the documents. Also, keep in mind, if anyone was found to be helping or hiding Jews, no just that one person died - the whole family was killed. Then to add insult to injury, the neighbors were killed as well. No one knew who to trust or not to trust because of this and everyone lived in fear. Further, because of this, some neighbors were not loyal either.

Below are some of the many documents my cousins' father, collected over the years on the topic. Basically they are claims from Jews who received aid from the family.

One of the many statements given as proof of help

An official document about help given

Another official document about help

Below are a few of the threatening documents/posters about helping the Jewish people or going against the occupiers.

I had to have these translated myself, but what an eye opener these are.

Further Sacrifice of the Family
Taken from Wikipedia
Not only were Edward and Zofia putting their lives at risk, but also their only child and son, and their neighbors and sacrificing so much for people, but they also had a personal tragedy as well. Edward's brother, Roman Wyrzykowski, was killed. He was an inspector of the local government of Dlugosiodlo. You can read about the town here. He was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp. There he was killed. It's name? Auschwitz.
Taken from here

That's right - Auschwitz. He was not a Jew. He was not gay. He was a guy who they took, arrested, and murdered - and Polish.

RIP - Remembrance (pic from here)

These are the people who should be remembered and revered on this day of Remembrance not because of its history, but because of their bravery. They never wanted acknowledgment of this because they were just taking care of their own in the best way they could. THESE are true heroes.