Sunday, May 24, 2015

"we found no man within" - How a Jewish Couple Survived in Poland in WWII

Public Park (ex-samurai castle remains) around Tokyo

How a Jewish Couple Survived in Poland in WWII

During WWII, a Polish Judaist was saved, with his wife, by a poor Polish citizen and his wife.

The young Polish Judaist got out of the ghetto in Warsaw occupied by German troops that were searching for Judaists to capture and send them to concentration camps.  It was not easy for Judaists to get out of the ghetto and mingle in a crowd in Warsaw without being noticed by German soldiers or unfriendly Polish citizens.  But, he and his wife had some reasonable money as he helped a group of anti-German Judaists in the ghetto seize big money from a safe in the office of a Jewish organization that was donating money periodically to a Polish authority in exchange of their safety.  Money would help them was the only hope.

So, on an occasion when a German troop ordered Judaists in the ghetto to come out of houses, form a line, and walk to cargo trucks waiting for them on the street of the ghetto, the young Polish Judaist, with his wife, boldly and quickly sneaked out of the queue and jumped in a building to run down to a basement.

Days later on the Warsaw street, their identities were soon exposed and they were surrounded by some Polish young ruffians who were looking for chances to extort money and any valuable things from Judaists disguising their status, since there were many such Polish youths at the time.  In a series of this kind of episodes, the couple was finally sent to a poor house in a forest in the suburb of Warsaw by a shrewd Warsaw man who took all the money left for the couple.  The Warsaw guy told the Jewish couple that the owner of the house was his old brother and he was a kind of German.

The resident of the house was a poor worker in a printing factory and his wife was from a Protestant family (that might be why the man was called a kind of German).  The husband and wife lived on selling cigarettes they made with tobacco leaves and sheets of paper, because the factory stopped its operation due to the war.  The Jewish couple helped make hundreds or thousands of cigarettes per day manually.

While secretly living together this way, the young Polish Judaist told many stories to the host husband and wife because he had been studying German literature in Berlin before the war though he had been rejected by German universities when he applied for enrollment.  The poor Polish husband and wife enjoyed the stories the future German literature critic told by arranging stories he had once read and studied.  Though money they could earn by selling hand-made cigarettes was not big and they were always hungry, they could rather friendly spend the difficult days under occupation of Warsaw by the German Army.

At the time, in villages of Poland there were many illiterates or those who could read but could not write.  There were many families in villages of Poland that had almost no books except the Bible or the like.  So, this young intellectual Polish Judaist became a respectable guest and a honest co-worker for manually producing cigarettes.  

In this way, the young Jewish couple could survive in a suburb of Warsaw till Soviet troops came to drive out German troops out of Warsaw, while the parents of the young Jewish man and his old brother as well as his wife's mother were killed by Nazis.    

One day after a battle between Soviet platoons and German artillery around the house, a Jewish Soviet soldier happened to check their hiding house, and the owner of the house called the young and poor Jewish man to see the soldier.  Then, the poor Jewish fugitive realized that he was a free man now, since the soldier said to him, "Are you Jewish?  I am Jewish.".

Their parting was so warm and heartfelt, though the Jewish couple were almost skin and bone.  The husband and wife asked the young Jewish couple to remember that there were some Polish people who saved Judaists by risking their lives, since they could have been killed by German soldiers if they had been found hiding Judaists.

Subsequently, the young Jewish couple went to a Polish military command center.  Polish officers in the command center assigned the young Judaist to a job of censorship as he could read German.  It became the start of a somewhat mysterious career of the Jewish young Pole in association with the Polish Government and the Polish Communist Party, though he later came to quit believing communism.

The Polish Judaist who survived WWII this way later became a notable critic of literature.

This is a story that has moved me recently so impressively.

Anyway, cigarettes don't always kill people but help some people survive even in Poland in WWII.

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Act 5:22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told,
Act 5:23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
Act 5:24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
Act 5:25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.