When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
From Warning to Long-Term
Shelter: Forms of
Christian Rescue

How did the rescuer-rescued relationship begin? Did this life-threatening association involve careful planning and preparation? My evidence gives a negative answer. In most cases those in need of protection initiated the relationship by asking the Poles for help. 1 Similarly, most survivors say that help was not promised to them ahead of time. 2 Of the Polish rescuers themselves, less than one-third initiated their aid to Jews. 3 Even those accounts that deal with prolonged sheltering of Jews show that such unplanned beginnings only gradually developed into more extensive aid.

When I met Hela Horska in 1978 in Warsaw she was widowed and lived alone under modest circumstances. This was in sharp contrast to her prewar and wartime position as a nurse and wife of a prominent Polish doctor. During the war she and her husband protected fourteen Jews for over two years. How did this aid come about?

The Horskis lived close to a Jewish section of a small town. Dr. Horski was a busy physician. During the war, he was assisted by his wife. After the establishment of the ghetto, the Horskis were approached by a Jewish woman patient who begged them to employ her thirteen-year-old son David Rodman. The mother feared that the boy's delicate health would not withstand the strenuous work the Nazis demanded of him. Feeling sorry for the mother, Hela secured permission from the authorities to employ young David, arguing that her work with her husband did not leave enough time for her children and house chores. Soon the boy became an asset because of his winning personality and his hard work. Eventually he won the hearts of the entire family, including the children. Once David had become a valued member of their household, it seemed natural for his employers to want to shield him from danger. Whenever they heard about moves against Jews they warned him and hid him in their house. Eventually David felt secure enough to ask that this privilege be extended to other members of his family. Each time there was to be a deportation in the ghetto a few of his relatives would come and hide, until their number grew

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