No. 4 Street of Our Lady is an amazing 2009 documentary By Richie Sherman that everyone should watch. It chronicles the unknown heroism of Franciszka Halamajowa, a simple Polish woman in her fifties who sheltered sixteen Jews and one escaped Nazi soldier during World War II.
I just watched the documentary and took notes while watching. My notes are below. I reveal key plot points. Please do watch the documentary. You won't regret it, I promise you. It's a portrait of heartwarming heroism such as you have not seen before.
You can watch the documentary on Vimeo here
The documentary begins with the question of why this story has not been told before. An Israeli survivor says that when he arrived in Israel, no one wanted to hear it. The Holocaust was something no one wanted to talk about.
Another survivor, living in America, says that he wanted to forget this horrible chapter of his life. He wanted to be as American as possible.
Jolanta Staron, born in Poland, granddaughter of rescuer Franciszka Halamajowa, says that her grandmother didn't want to talk about her rescue activities because there are anti-Semites in Poland who would punish her for rescuing Jews during the war.
There is a very poignant scene where the daughter of one of the murdered Jews visits a brick factory where Nazis forced her father and other Jews to dig their own graves before shooting them. The daughter weeps. She knows her father's remains lie somewhere under the earth of the brick factory, but she doesn't know where.
Moshe Maltz, one of the rescued Jews, kept a diary. He reports that Franciszka was married to a Ukrainian, whom she threw out of her house after he joined the Nazis.
Holocaust historian Omer Bartov says that Franciszka's story is unusual because she sheltered so many Jews and for so long. Bartov emphasizes how poor Galicia was at this time, and how resourceful Franciszka must have been to survive and to keep her charges alive.
Franciszka managed to give her charges pierogies, sauerkraut, and sour cream on Christmas. One survivor says he can still taste it.
The Jews had very little light. They passed time by playing chess, telling stories, and catching lice.
Fay, one of the saved children, cried. A sound could give the entire set-up away. So the Jews decided to poison Fay. After the poison was administered, and they were ready to hand the child's corpse over to Franciszka, they felt a pulse. Fay survived, and she talks on the documentary about what it was like to be poisoned by her fellow Jews.
One day Helen, Franciszka's daughter, who brought toys and treats to the children, reported that an entire family that helped Jews in Lwow was forced to march around town with a sign reading "traitor," and then hanged.
Further, anyone who handed a Jew over received five liters of whiskey plus cash.
The village of Sokal was handed over to the USSR after the war. It is now in Ukraine. Few Poles remain. One elderly Polish woman who still lives there reports remembering seeing the Jews rounded up and shot. She cries. She describes one of the survivor's father to his son. "He was a very good doctor!" she says, through tears.
The elderly woman says that she was aware of health problems one of the hidden Jews had. "How did you know this?" the survivor asks.
"Everyone knew everything but we kept quiet," she says. This anecdote underscores what is frequently said: it took many non-Jews to keep one Jew safe. It took only one non-Jew to betray Jews to the Nazis. "Everyone knew everything but we kept quiet," she says, suggesting that many villagers knew that Franciszka was hiding Jews, but these people protected her secret.
One of the rescued Jews died of tuberculosis. Franciszka buried her at night, under her apple tree.
A neighbor heard suspicious sounds from the hayloft. Franciszka was distraught. She told this neighbor that she was hiding Dr Kindler. The neighbor demanded to see him. After that, the neighbor backed off. Dr. Kindler was respected and loved.
Ukrainians put signs on Franciszka's door. "Get out. You don't belong here." Franciszka said to her Jewish charges, "Whatever happens to you will happen to me."
Seeking protection, Franciszka offered the German commander the chance to host parties in her home. And indeed Germans partied there. Franciszka's daughter Helena worked in the post office and brought home German friends "so as not to arouse suspicions."
One German said he didn't want to fight any more. Franciszka hid him in her attic.
Germans parked a tank near the pigsty Franciszka had to trick the Germans into moving it.
At about the hour point, the survivors from the pigsty reminisce about discovering, only at the end of the war, that this whole time Franciszka has been hiding a Jewish family in a hole underneath her kitchen table.
After the war, Franciszka told her charges that they should not let others know that she had rescued them. Too many Poles punished other Poles who saved Jews.
Franciszka refused to hand over the German soldier she was sheltering. She was arrested. The Jews she saved begged for her life. She was released. Franciszka "lifted her skirts" and escaped through the Bug River to Polish territory. The German soldier was shot.
In Poland, Franciszka learned that her son was shot while smuggling supplies to Jews.
One of the rescued Jews says that Franciszka was an angel, and beyond human comprehension. Once Franciszka asked one of her charges if he would have taken her in if the situation were reversed. He acknowledged that he did not have a ready answer for that.