A roots journey to Zaglembie 2016 - Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki saving Jews

Wednesday, 06 July 2016

A roots journey to Zaglembie 2016 - Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki saving Jews

Roots' Journey to Zaglembie 2016: Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki saving Jews

Edited: Yael Regev

On the night of the burning down f the synagogue, about 50 Jews who were praying in it managed to escape from the Germans through the back door, as they ran up the hill in the direction of the Church, that was about 250 meters away.

At that time, Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki, who opened the gates for them, was in the Church and gave them asylum. He helped them flee, in the direction of the forested hill through the Church back door, later on to where the Jewish cemetery was situated for which he was declared Righteous Gentile.

The following, for which Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki is acknowledged - placed in collaboration between the Zaglembie Survivors Organization, church officials and the Będzin municipality – is the plague mentioning the courageous deeds of Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki and appears on the external wall of the Church written in both Hebrew and Polish:

"...This plague is dedicated by the Będzin Jews to the Righteous Gentile bishop Mieczysław Zawadzki, who, during the burning down of the synagogue by the Germans with praying Jews in it, 9th September 1939, saved Jews by opening the church gates to them."

Among the survivors was Itzhak Turner, long life to him, lives in Tel Aviv and in an active member in the organization.

Yatzi – Itzhak Turner shared:

"...My parents, my brother and I lived on 3 Boczna Street. Our house stood on the first row of houses nearest the big synagogue in Będzin, up the hill. It was a row of houses that began near the synagogue and ended at the foot of the hill on which the Church building stood.

At the outbreak of the war, on 4th September 1939, and the German army invasion of Poland, Germans entered Będzin, took positions and settled in the city.

On the night of 8th - 9th September 1939, German soldiers broke down entrance doors in houses that were situated near the synagogue. Soldiers threw in hand grenades shooting in all directions and ordered everybody out, claiming that Jews had shot at them from within the synagogue.

Many Jews that ran to the synagogue and entrenched themselves in it, met their death in the burning down of the synagogue. Many others were taken by the German soldiers and were ordered to stand by the Church wall, where they were ordered to run and escape and were shot at in order to hit and kill. Whoever stayed behind was shot to death. Commotion ensued and cries and screams of Help, Mother, Father and Shema Yisrael were heard.

A group of Jews, myself among them, ran for our lives to the Church up the hill on Plebańska Street. The German soldiers shot at us with automatic machine guns. A few people were injured, some severely and other lightly. A friend and neighbor, Wik Strier, who ran next to me, was hit by a bullet to his head and died. I was injured in my left hand while running. The bullet entered through my elbow and went out through my shoulder.

A few people ran, escaping to the old market, others ran in the direction of the Church and entered the garden surrounding it. I ran to the Church door. As we approached, Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki opened the gate and instructed people to come in quickly. A few of us, including myself entered. Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki then instructed the nuns to treat the wounded with us first aid.

After receiving first aid, Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki said to us that if the Germans came into the Church and saw what he had done – helping the Jews – they will execute both himself and the nuns as well as all the Jews in the Church at the time. He was risking death.

Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki opened a side gate of the Church, in the direction of the Podzamcze old cemetery where we headed for in the cover of darkness. That's where I hid throughout the night.

The group that came to the Church garden, but didn't enter the church as we had done, were directed personally by Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki to move to the other side of the hill where things were a lot quieter. They moved from there to a place called Góra Zamkowa by the castle, where they stayed all night.

At first light, I got up from my hiding place and went to the hospital for medical assistance.

Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki was personally driven by sheer unconditional love for the other, certainly for no material gain.

To me and other Organization members, this is a closing of a cycle and glimpse of the gratitude we feel for Priest Mieczysław Zawadzki as a Righteous Gentile.

Yad Vashem website - click here

POLIN website – click here

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