The “Poles Saving Jews” cycle presents the 39 families based in the Świętokrzyskie Province. They all helped Jews during World War II. This is just a small representations, as there were many more families that offered aid to Jews during the war time. The Yad Vashem Institute recognised about 280 Świętokrzyskie Province’s residents who helped Jews and awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations”.
There were individuals (for example those presented in episodes 11, 12 and 39), the whole families (e.g. episodes 16, 33 and 40) and sometimes several families who jointly supported Jews and offered them places to hide (e.g. episodes 36 and 37 ). There were also stories presenting the underground organizations’ involvement in helping Jews for (e.g. episode 35) as well as the organisation’s members (episodes 38 and 39).
Also priests (e.g. episode 18) and nuns offered help for Jews. Children’s involvement was crucial too – the young people sometimes played a vital role in getting Jews out of the ghettos (episode 19).
In most cases Poles decided to hide their friends, acquaintances and relatives. Yet there were numerous cases when Poles provide shelter to complete strangers (e.g. episode 15).
In the 1942-45 period, Jews were offered shelter in the rural areas of the Świętokrzyskie as it was easier to organise a safe haven and supply food there (episode 38). The hiding places were arranged in fields and forests, in farm buildings, and most often in homes, e.g. under the floor, in the attic or between the walls. The conditions were very harsh. Neither those in the hiding nor those who offered help expected that the situation would continue for up to three years. There was a constant sense of threat that a hiding place could be discovered and those involved would suffer the capital punishment.
Anna Lewkowicz’s moving memories was also the chance to present the insiders’ perspective on war time period. It was the story told by those in the hiding (episode 13).
We have also decided to present a number of families who have not received a formal recognition for their held rendered for Jews (e.g. episode 11, 15). There are stories with a tragic end – people were executed for what they did (e.g. episodes 22, 32).
It was always an individual decision whether to help or not. Overcoming fear was the greatest barrier. – says Tomasz Domański PhD. from the Kielce IPN Division.
As part of the “History of Jews in Poland and Polish-Jewish relations in 1914-1989” project, the Institute of National Remembrance has conducted research on Poles helping Jews during the Second World War in all Second Polish Republic Voivodeships.