Saturday, May 7, 2011

Krystyna Mew on Jozefa Janina Jaskolska, One of Many Unsung Polish Heroines

Jozefa Janina Jaskolska nee Liszewska, center. Circa 1953
Krystyna's comments: "My grandmother in the middle, my mother and my sister on the left and my aunt and my cousin on the right. The photo was taken in Wales UK around 1953/4"

Krystyna Mew wrote to share the story of her Polish-Catholic grandmother, who helped Jews during the Holocaust. That story is below.

Krystyna is of Polish-Catholic and Polish-Jewish descent.

Her father, Edward Herzbaum, wrote the excellent memoir, "Lost Between Worlds." That book's webpage is here. I posted a review of the book here.

Krystyna's story, in her own words:


I have become increasingly disillusioned and depressed by the realization that most people are totally unaware of the crucial role played by Poland in overcoming Nazi Germany in World War II. They are also unaware of the suffering the Poles endured at the hands of both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia at this time.

But even worse than this is the realization that Poles, and their descendants, are being slurred with the label of 'anti-Semite.'

Not a few Poles, but the entire nation. This is totally unacceptable!

I do not deny that some cases of anti-Semitism did exist in Poland, but you cannot condemn an entire nation for a few individuals' actions.

I am the daughter of a Polish-Catholic mother and a Polish-Jewish father.

My maternal grandmother was living in Warsaw with her two daughters and her teacher husband at the outbreak of war. She was a strict Catholic and probably thought of as anti-Semitic, due to her religious beliefs.

Despite this, for some part of the war, she sheltered a Jewish mother and her children, even though this endangered not only her life but also that of her young family. This is not documented. Clearly any documentation of such acts would further endanger lives and so it is not surprising that we lack such documentation of these positive acts.

How many other thousands of such cases of Poles helping Jews were also not documented? These acts of bravery were not done for recognition but simply as acts of humanitarian kindness.

If all Poles were really anti-Semitic, why was Poland the only country in which the Nazis imposed a death penalty on any person (and their entire family) found to be helping Jews?

The Nazis would not have found it necessary to introduce this law if most Poles were anti-Semitic!!

I have also heard that the Poles are accused of being anti-Semitic by virtue of the fact that they stood by whilst Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis. This is totally unfair.

I wonder how many of us would have been brave enough to risk our families' lives under these circumstances.

Please, please, those of you who accuse Poles of being anti-Semitic, review the evidence and stop maligning those who fought on the same side as you, to overcome the regime that perpetrated the Holocaust.

"My grandmother's ID card. 1942."

"My mother's student ID card."

"The booklet my grandmother was given when she arrived in the UK 1st November 1946."

"Where my grandmother lived in Warsaw. Taken 2009."

"Where my grandmother lived in Warsaw. Taken 2009."


  1. Thank you, Krystyna. Thank you to your brave mother. We need such voices of truth.

  2. What a wonderful story and happy Mother's Day to her and your whole family.

    You are correct and saying exactly what my parents always told me. This is a simple case of revisionism which began as soon as the war ended, of painting the victims out to be collaberators to ease the burden of guilt.

    God bless all those unsung Polish heroes for all they did. There are many many more out there and we will never know but if family can share, bless them as well.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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