Franciszek and Magdalena Banasiewicz

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The family of Franciszek and Magdalena Banasiewicz with sons: Jerzy, Tadeusz, Antoni, and daughter Maria lived on a farm in Orzechowce near Przemyśl during the Nazi German occupation of Poland in World War II. In July 1991 they were bestowed the titles of Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem for rescuing fifteen Jews escaping the Holocaust from the ghetto in Przemyśl.[1]

Franciszek Banasiewicz (2 April 1884 – 5 February 1954) was a decorative painter before the war. His wife Magdalena née Lenar (7 July 1884 – 28 September 1957) was a homemaker. Two Banasiewicz sons, Antoni and Tadeusz, were sent by the Nazi Germans to forced labour in the Third Reich when the war broke out. Tadeusz escaped and after returning home lived in hiding in barns and in the fields. His father, Franciszek, organised many heroic rescue missions with his aid.[1]

Initially, Franciszek Banasiewicz was approached by Salomon Ehrenfreud, who escaped the ghetto massacre of June 1942 having witnessed the death of his wife and children. He was hiding at the home of Jan Kościak a bit earlier. Tadeusz—already staying out of sight—took it upon himself to hide along with Salomon around the farm. Meanwhile, Franciszek started taking in other Jews including Salomon's brother, Izaak—previously helped by other Poles—his cousin Jakub Nassan and their friends Marcel Teich and Junek Frenkiel. Helped by his own son, Franciszek brought from the ghetto Nassan's wife, Eugenia and her friend Fejga Weidenbaum. A week later he rescued Edmund Orner.[2][3][4]

The bunker[edit]

Banasiewicz family and the fugitives began constructing a bunker under the house in the fall of 1943 in preparation for the cold Polish winter. The new hiding area enabled Banasiewiczs to rescue more people. In October 1943, on request of Salomon Ehrenfreud, Tadeusz smuggled out from the ghetto Bunia Stamhofer and Fela Szattner, then in January 1944, he rescued Samuel Reinharz with his brother Beniamin and their mother Bertha. He attempted to rescue Jozef Weindling, however, Jozef's brother, a ghetto policeman, arrested Tadeusz at that time, and passed him over to the Nazis. The German commander released him nonetheless, bribed by Samuel Reinharz, who then escaped with Tadeusz and Jozef back to the farm where all fifteen Jews were hiding.

Public execution of Michał Kruk in Przemyśl

Maria Banasiewicz recalls how shocked though undeterred they were to learn that, in the nearby village of Tarnawce, farmer Kurpiel who sheltered 27 Jews in a bunker similar to theirs was discovered in May 1944.[3][2][5] All fugitives were murdered. Kurpiel with his wife and family was executed in Lipowica. Several months earlier, a similar fate met Banasiewiczs liaison with the Ghetto, Michał Kruk.[5] He was executed on 6 September 1943, during the first public execution in Przemyśl, along with several other people punished by death for the assistance they had rendered to the Jews.

In Przemyśl: 15,210 Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust, including 568 non-Jewish Poles killed because they were attempting to save them. Only 675 Jews remained, among them 415 Jews saved directly in the town including 60 children. — Leszek M. Włodek [6]

In May 1944 German gendarmes came to recapture one of the Banasiewicz sons. They surrounded the house, but were unsuccessful. The bunker was not discovered either.[4] The Red Army retook the town from German forces on July 27, 1944. All family members and Jewish escapees survived. In 1988 (or, on July 17, 1991, sources vary) the Banasiewicz family including Franciszek, Magdalena, Maria, Tadeusz and Jerzy were given the titles of Righteous among the Nations for their heroic stance against the Nazi German Holocaust.[7]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Banasiewicz Family. Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Władysław Bartoszewski, The Blood Shed Unites Us: Pages from the History of Help to the Jews Page 213 — 1970 — 243 pages
  3. ^ a b Anna Poray, Polish Righteous: Those Who Risked Their Lives 2004.
  4. ^ a b Władysław Bartoszewski, Zofia Lewin, The Samaritans: Heroes of the Holocaust Published by Twayne Publishers, 1970, 442 pages
  5. ^ a b Lukasz Biedka, Chris Webb, Przemysl Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team 2007
  6. ^ Leszek M. Włodek, historian (2002). "Zagłada Żydów przemyskich (The destruction of Przemyśl Jews)" (PDF 4,096 bytes). Bulletin No 28 – January 2002 (in Polish). Przemyśl: Katolickie Stowarzyszenie „Civitas Christiana”. p. 2. Retrieved 14 January 2012. "Życie utraciło 15,210 Żydów i 7,123 Polaków w tym 568 za ukrywanie Żydów [...] pozostało 675 osób: 415 spośród nich, w tym 60 dzieci, ukrywało się na terenie miasta i najbliższej okolicy." 
  7. ^ (Polish) Muzeum Niepodległości w Warszawie, Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa (Poland) (1939–1945), Polskie państwo podziemne wobec tragedii Żydów 1939–1945. Page 24, 1993 — 82 pages