AP

Polish man who rescued Jews during the Holocaust dies at 102

Jun 20, 2022, 8:17 PM | Updated: Jun 21, 2022, 10:47 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Józef Walaszczyk, a member of the Polish resistance who rescued dozens of Jews during the Nazi German occupation of Poland during World War II, has died aged 102.

Walaszczyk died on Monday, according to the Institute of National Remembrance, a Polish state historical body.

Walaszczyk fell in love during the war with a Jewish woman, Irena Front, only learning that she was Jewish when German Gestapo forces searched a hotel where he was staying with her.

He helped her hide and tried to distract the Gestapo men by pretending to be sick. He later arranged for Front to get false documents, even entering into a fictitious marriage with her.

Soon after that, Front and 20 other Jews were arrested by the Gestapo.

“If something was to be done, it had to be done for them all. I had to arrange for a kilogram of gold by 5:00 pm – and it was already noon. Only then would the Germans forget about the incident and release the Jews,” Walaszczyk recalled in an interview, according to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Walaszczyk managed to collect and pay the required ransom, thereby saving the lives of 21 people.

He also employed 30 Jews in a potato flour factory that he had been tasked with managing due to his knowledge of the German language. He kept them alive by bribing a German official. Most of those he employed survived the war, according to the Polish state historical body and the museum.

In all, he said that he rescued 53 Jews.

He was also involved in the Polish underground that resisted the German occupation of Poland throughout the war.

Walaszczyk was almost killed by a three-man German execution squad for being caught carrying parcels to the Home Army, Poland’s anti-German resistance movement. He recalled that the Germans had him against a wall with their guns pointed at him. In that moment he felt to the urge to shout, “Long live Poland!” But he refrained, fearing the Germans would only arrest and inflict suffering on another Pole in revenge.

At the last moment a Gestapo office intervened, saying the death would have been too easy for him and that he should instead be sent to Auschwitz. Ultimately his life was spared after his mother intervened with a higher-ranking German officer, who valued his work at the factory.

Walaszczyk also took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a revolt against the German occupiers that was brutally crushed.

After the war he and Front split up. He worked in commerce until he was 94.

Thanks to Front’s efforts, Walaszczyk was honored in 2002 as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum. The honor recognizes the gentiles who saved Jews across German-occupied Europe during World War II.

It was extremely dangerous to help Jews during Germany’s occupation of Poland, with the Germans executing not only those caught helping Jews but also their entire families.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

1 day ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

4 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

4 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Polish man who rescued Jews during the Holocaust dies at 102