Józef Walaszczyk

Article

July 5, 2022

Józef Władysław Walaszczyk (born November 13, 1919 in Częstochowa, died June 20, 2022 in Warsaw) - Polish leathercraft maker, entrepreneur, "Righteous Among the Nations". Polish resistance activist who saved 53 Jews during World War II. He was called the "Polish" and the "second Schindler".

Curriculum vitae

Youth and education

He was the son of a medical assistant and journalist. He grew up in Warsaw. In the fall of 1927, after the death of his father, the family's financial situation deteriorated significantly. His cousin, Ludwik Okęcki, the owner of the property and factory in Rylsk in Łódź, helped at that time. Mother moved there. Józef lived in boarding schools, continuing his education. He passed the so-called high school diploma and moved to Warsaw to study at the Liceum Handlowy im. National Education Commission at ul. Senatorska. He lived in a studio apartment at ul. Krucza 34. He was a trader and made contacts, also with Jews. Okęcki began to train him to manage the estate in Rylsk.

Helping Jews

In Rylsk

As a participant in the military training course for students, Walaszczyk was mobilized and directed to Brest. Together with his cousin, he tried to reach Romania via Polesie. On September 17, 1939, when they were in the vicinity of Rivne, they decided to return to Rylsk, wanting to avoid the Soviet troops only a few kilometers away. They got there at the end of the month. In December 1939, due to his experience and knowledge of German, Walaszczyk was appointed by the Germans as the manager of the local potato flour factory and property manager. It gave Walaszczyk the opportunity to help family members and friends. He employed a total of about 200 employees, providing accommodation and meals. He also employed Jews. Probably in 1941 Wengrow, one of his Jewish friends, asked to admit 40 people from the ghetto in Rawa Mazowiecka. Walaszczyk owed Wengrów a debt of gratitude before 1939. Józef persuaded Miller - the director of the Arbeitsamt - with a high bribe, negotiated a permit to employ 30 Jews. Every two weeks he had to pay another installment of the bribe. After several months, Miller refused to further extend his consent to their work. Walaszczyk ordered the employees to hide in the event of the appearance of the Germans. He himself went to see Miller. In fact, German trucks arrived at the estate at that time and transported some of the captured Jews to the Łódź ghetto. The others survived.

In Warsaw

In 1940, Józef Walaszczyk met Irena Front (using the surname Bartczak), with whom he fell in love. She told him that she was Jewish when the hotel was searched by the Germans. Józef helped Irena hide behind the wardrobe, while he himself, simulating stomach problems, closed the door and went to the toilet outside the room. The Germans withdrew from the search after assurances of the owner of the guesthouse that she was a regular and well-known client. After this situation, Irena moved to his studio at Krucza, and Józef arranged for her forged documents, having previously married her fictitiously. After some time, however, she and a group of 20 Jewish friends were arrested. Walaszczyk, having found out about it, immediately went to Warsaw. At the Gestapo station, where the Home Army had its agent, he showed up at 12 o'clock. He found out that if he delivered a kilogram of gold by 5 p.m., the Germans would release the Jews (they refused to release Irena herself). Walaszczyk obtained and paid the required ransom, thanks to which he saved a total of 21 people. Despite the assurances of the Gestapo that the premises at ul. Krucza will be safe, Józef took Irena from there the next day. Then he sold the premises and bought a flat at ul. Emilii Plater 17. Apart from Irena, her friend Hanka Staszewska and her nurse Helena T lived there