On Sunday, October 18, 2020 we unveiled the monument on the grave of a Jewish family
murdered during the war in Poręba Spytkowska forest.
Due to the general epidemiological situation, we could not organize a major ceremony. But although there were only a handful of us, we did what was the most important: we commemorated innocent victims of the Shoah.
At the beginning, Krakow rabbi, Eliezer Gurary, explained that according to Jewish law, burial of the dead, especially those whom we don’t know, is considered to be one of the greatest mitzvot.
The monument was unveiled by Mrs. Edwarda Bienias – the granddaughter of the Cichoński family, who were hiding the Jewish family during the war, and Mr. Marian Put, thanks to whom we learned about this story.
I told everyone about the fate of the Jews who were hiding on a farm located just 100 meters from the place of their execution, and then we read the inscription on the grave:
“Here lie the bodies of a man and his wife together with their two young children who were murdered here because they were Jews. It was in 1944, during the time of the Holocaust. Their names are not known, nor where they were from. They had been in hiding near here for a year or more, but in the end their identity as Jews was discovered and made public and their fate became that of so many other Jews in the incomprehensible tragedy of hatred and violence that marked those terrible times. Let us pray for their souls and for an end to such hatred.”
While preparing this ceremony, when thinking about the martyrdom of the Jewish family, I understood that similar tragedies took place during the war in many places. In the Brzesko poviat, there are at least 17 known cases when Jews were found, shot and buried somewhere in the fields and forests. We know at least something about the destiny of over 40 people based on documents kept in the Institute of National Remembrance and testimonies of witnesses. But undoubtedly there were many others, who also perished, but we have no documents that would tell us about them. These people were shot only because of being Jewish and left no descendants. Who will remember about them if not us?
The parish priest in Poręba Spytkowska, Stanisław Boryczka, prayed for all murdered Jews with the words of Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd…”
Jews murdered and buried in fields and forests of Brzesko poviat (based on the documents from the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance and witnesses’ testimonies)
– Borzęcin. Eliasz Reiss, his son Aron Reiss and an unknown Jewish woman were shot and buried in the field in 1941.
– Czchów. A Jewish woman and her child (about 2 years old) were shot in December 1943. Buried near Dunajec river.
– Dębno. 7 Jews were shot on October 26, 1942 and buried in a mass grave in a forest. Four of them were from Dębno: Karolina Glassner (30 years old); her 2 daughters Dorota and Czesława (4 and 6 years old); grandmother Glassner (60 years old). Three siblings were from Brzesko: Czesława Glassner (17 years old), Jan Glassner (16 years old), Elza Glassner (11 years old)
– Doły. Karol Glassner (30 years old) and Chaja Glassner (32 years old) were shot and buried in Porąbka Uszewska forest in 1943.
– Iwkowa. A Jewish woman (40 years old) and her 7-year-old daughter were shot and buried together in a field by the forest in October 1943.
Iwkowa. A Jewish man was shot and buried in the forest in autumn 1943.
– Iwkowa. A Jewish man, last name Tellerman, from Dobrociesz (45 years old) was shot and buried in Iwkowa forest in December 1943.
– Okocim. A group of Jews from Brzesko hiding in Garbatka forest was discovered, shot and buried in the forest. No information about the number of people hiding and shot there.
– Piaski Drużków. A Jewish woman from Tarnów, last name Krautwirth, her 3-years-old daughter and an unknown Jewish woman were shot and buried by Dunajec river in 1943.
– Piaski Drużków. An unknown Jewish woman from Krynica, living in Czchów, was discovered and shot in 1944. Buried in Piaski Drużków.
– Porąbka Uszewska. Hafta Glassner (42 years old) and her 2 children, Brońka (11 years old) and Jan (7 years old) were shot and buried in the forest in August 1942
– Poręba Spytkowska. A Jewish family, parents and 2 children, were discovered, shot and buried in the forest in spring 1944.
– Szczepanów. Bothers Emil and Szymon Jakubowicz from Przyborów and an unknown Jewish man were shot on September 9, 1943. Brothers were buried in a private garden near post office, and the Jewish man – in a field next to the cemetery.
– Szczurowa. Three Jewish men were shot and buried in a field in 1943.
– Szczurowa. A Jewish family, about 5 people, were discovered and shot in 1944. Buried at animals’ funeral ground in that village.
– Uszew. Pinkas Federgrun, a Jewish woman (last name Goldberger, about 45 years old) and her 3 daughters (12, 6 and 1 years old) were discovered, shot and buried in the forest in July 1943.
– Wola Przemykowska. A Jewish man was shot and buried in a field in Autumn 1942.
All together at least 45 people plus certainly others that we are not aware of.
We were all holding cards with information about Jews who had perished in the Brzesko poviat under similar circumstances, and Rabbi Gurary read these names. He called out loudly to these people. We know almost nothing about many of them, but they are no longer unknown victims of the Holocaust. We were reading these words, and sounds of Hebrew prayer, El Male Rachamim, could be heard among the trees.
I trust that thanks to our memory, our common prayer, the souls of these people were regaining their freedom. I hope that this monument, the memory of the war-time events, will become an important part of local history. “Let us pray for an end to such hatred…”
This commemoration would not have been possible without the support of many people to whom I would like to express my deep gratitude:
– graduates of the Brzesko high school Kamila Mamica, Ola Kotra and Magda Piech: when participating in our project “We know your names”, they wrote about a Jewish family murdered in Poręba Spytkowska forest;
– Mr. Marian Put and Józef Put, thanks to whom it was possible to locate the site of the execution;
– Aleksander Schwarz from the “Forgotten” Foundation, who determined the exact location of the grave with the help of georadar;
– Mr. Andrzej Nabielec, who allowed to commemorate the grave located on his private land;
– authors of the commemoration: the author of the project, Damian Styrna; the author of the inscription prof. Jonathan Webber; sculptors Iwo Cebrat and Urszula Hagno-Cebrat; stonemason Piotr Śledź;
– Forum for Dialogue and descendants of Brzesko Jews for financial support of the project.
In addition, I would like to thank the parish priest Stanisław Boryczka and rabbi Eliezer Gurary. Their joint participation in the ceremony and prayer for all the murdered show that what counts above all is respect and love for another human being.
We gratefully remember about the Cichoński family who tried to save persecuted Jews while risking their lives.
The author of all these photos is Mr. Krzysztof Wasyłek.
© Anna Brzyska, 2020