One assignment for the study abroad course that I am taking is to do a research essay on a topic of my choice. The topic I chose is the Righteous among the Nations “Heroes of the Holocaust”. With the research essay, we are supposed to post to our blogs with the information that we find throughout our travels. So here’s what I’ve found:
Anyone who is caught helping Jews in any way was sent to death immediately. The Nazi’s believed in “collective responsibility” meaning that if someone in a family was helping a Jew, anyone in the family could be sent to death for it. It was actually legal in Poland to kill someone for helping Jews, and one of the few places where it was actually legal. A guy was killed because his dad was hiding Jews. He was the only one at home when they came, and he ended up being the only one in the family killed for it. (Gabriella Sitter)
In the Schindler museum, there was some useful information regarding the heroes of the holocaust. “The Jews who were staying outside the ghetto without permit, and the people providing them with any assistance, were subject to capital punishment.” (Schindler museum)
In my opinion, a hero of the holocaust goes beyond just hiding and protecting Jews. Any assistance given to a Jew is an act of heroism considering the risks and punishments associated with it. “Once a week the Jewish Social Welfare (JSW) held money collection actions in the streets of the ‘quarter’. Charity is one of the obligations provided for in the Talmud. The funds raised during these actions were donated to the four hospitals in the Ghetto, the orphanage, the day care centre for children, and the soup kitchen. All of the above institutions were also provided with financial support from the JSW and the Jewish Council.” (Schindler museum)
Regarding Oskar Schindler, the museum did talk a little bit about him and his journey. When he came to Krakow he mainly employed Poles at first. He soon found that Jews were cheaper so he employed them instead. His workers traveled to the factory every day until their ghetto was liquidated. Once that happened, he built his own housing arrangement next to the factory so the workers could stay there. His living accommodations were better than those of the ghettos, so everyone wanted to work for him. When the Nazi’s were taking all of the Jews out of Krakow to various concentration/death camps, Schindler’s workers were going to be taken away from him. He made arrangements to move his factory with the workers so that they could continue working for him. The men and women employees took two different trains to the new factory. When he arrived to the new factory, he noticed that the women’s train had not arrived yet. After looking into the situation, he found out that the women were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau by mistake. He then drove to Auschwitz and demanded every woman from that train to be taken to his factory. Schindler fought hard to keep his workers alive and under his control. As of 1944, he had some 1,200 people working for him. Those 1,200 people were able to stay alive and survive the holocaust because of Oskar Schindler. (Schindler museum and Schindler’s List)
One thing mentioned in the museum was that there was a famous pharmacy in Krakow known for being an aide to Jews living in the ghettos. “The Eagle Pharmacy at 18 Plac Zgody was owned by a Pole named Tadeusz Pankiewicz. His employees at the Pharmacy were Irena Drozdzikowska, Helena Krywaniuk and Aureila Danek.” (Schindler museum) The pharmacist was the only non-Jew allowed to be in the ghetto, and he was usually the main source of outside information brought into the ghetto. He also provided shelter in times of need. Everyone knew the pharmacist, and he knew all of them as well. “Pankiewicz and his staff smuggled messages from people in the ghetto to their acquaintances and friends on the ‘Aryan’ side, and delivered messages and letters, usually containing money, from Poles to the Jews staying in the ghetto, and later also in the Plaszow camp. Pankiewicz would help people in running their errands regardless of how well he knew them. This would win him general appreciation and trust from everyone who managed to contact him, either directly or indirectly” (Doctor Aleksander Bieberstein) The story of the pharmacy is interesting since it is not widely talked about how people directly working with Jews in the ghettos would assist them. The most common talked about methods of heroism during the holocaust is those who smuggled or hid Jews in their homes.