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Oral history interview with Jadwiga Gawronska

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1280.3 | RG Number: RG-50.225.0003

Jadwiga Gawrońska (Jankowska), born as Fryda Ruer on June 19, 1923 in Lublin, Poland, describes being from a partly assimilated Jewish family, which followed Jewish traditions and religion; speaking Polish at home and having Polish friends; her father, who was an accountant; the beginning of the war in Lublin and the early persecution of the local Jews; the establishment of the ghetto in 1940-1941; the closing of schools and frequent mandatory relocations; shady currency trading emerging in the ghetto; her brother working as a photographer in the local villages and obtaining food for her family; her family leaving the ghetto and moving to the countryside; a Jewish wedding taking place in the area; her father and brother working as farmers; her family being well accepted in the Polish village, due to their knowledge of German and urban sophistication; she and her sister making friends with the local youth; facing oppositions when her family tried to arrange false travel papers; the deportation of all the Jews from the local villages to Piaski, Poland on October 16, 1942 and finding shelter in the homes of many of her charitable friends; her father giving up and deliberately joining the group selected for deportation to the Trawniki concentration camp; the different ways in which her other family members were escaping the deportation; going to Lublin and then Warsaw, Poland and encountering “szmalcownicy” (blackmailers/collaborators) and purchasing identification documents through a well-established black market; the people, places, and details involved with of her life in Warsaw; her boyfriend, his little sister, and her illegally staying with many Polish families and having to relocate frequently; encounters with both decent Polish people (such as Wanda Olbrychska, who received the Righteous among the Nations Award) and mercenary opportunists, who worked for the Gestapo; her boyfriend (Berek) having to remain in hiding; receiving aid from Berek’s family and the Żegota; the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto; the passport black market; the operation of the Polish Hotel, located on Długa Street, which was the center for the Jewish illegal travel abroad; her boyfriend’s pre-war communist affiliations and befriending Poles, who worked for the socialist underground; getting involved in illegal distribution of the PSPR (Polish Socialist Workers Party) newspaper; many situations when she was blackmailed or nearly caught; engineer Cywiński from Sapieżyńska Street, who was saving Jews by means of a small hair-net production hall, which he created in his apartment; the AL (Armia Ludowa; People’s army) partisan battalion commanded by Jan Mulak and Berek being admitted to the group; the murder of the Jewish partisans in Życzyński Forest, including Berek; her life in Warsaw after Berek’s death, when she worked for a Jewish businessman (assumed name of Jan Łaski); joining her brother in Łuków; being accused of being a Jew by a Volksdeutsch and a German specialist being summoned to determine her race; the flight of the Germans in the area and the approach of the Soviet Army on July 23, 1944; her brothers’ “brush with death” while being an insurance collector; returning to Lublin and marrying a Pole after the war; antisemitism in Poland after the war and its roots; feeling guilty for her first husband’s death and her regret that she didn’t talk him out of joining the AL partisans; feeling both Jewish and Polish; the communist system in Poland; not discussing the war much; and her feelings about writing a memoir.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Jadwiga Gawronska
interview:  1994 July
11 videocassettes (U-Matic) : sound, color ; 3/4 in..
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
Record last modified: 2021-02-16 15:52:18
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