Both my mother and father were raised in the spirit of not just tolerance but also kindness for people of Jewish origins, regardless of the degree of their assimilation.
From the beginning of the German occupation, our contacts with these people remained unchanged. On 25 September 1939, our Warsaw house was bombarded and burned down (Wilcza Street 5, flat 9). From 21 April 1940, we rented a flat at number 5, at 6 Sierpnia Street (presently Nowomiejska Street), where two rooms were let out to Jewish subtenants. They were:
1. Maria Handt, nee Mendelsburg, aged over 40, with her niece Anna Wierzbicka, aged around 25; both survived the war.
2. Zofia Heyman, aged around 60, a teacher displaced from Kalisz, she did some sewing on the side.
3. Gabriel Firnej, aged around 45, an economist. He died in mid-1943 in Kraków (he was accidentally captured by the Gestapo).
4. Roman Szymonowicz, aged 15, resident from mid-1943, a refugee from Lwów, where his parents died (real name unknown). He died in the Warsaw Uprising on 18 September 1944 in Powiśle as a Home Army soldier (details to be found in the “Tu i Teraz” weekly, issue 33 (116), year III, 14 August 1984, p.9: Chłopiec z tamtych lat by Zuzanna Stromenger). 5. Joanna Berland, aged 16, a student, resident from 28 March 1943, hiding after her mother
was arrested by the criminal police (details below).
In the 1940s, until the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising, Jews hiding outside the ghetto were very often guests in our house.
Additionally, when the ghetto was being set up and people were being relocated there, friends of ours would bring their furniture and book collections to our place, in the expectation that they would survive the war and reclaim their belongings. These people were:
Lina, Kazimierz, Róża (Etkin) and Ryszard Moszkowski – furniture; the Fels family – furniture; Stella and Ignacy Rosenbaum – furniture and a book collection; Bronisław Krystall – a lavish book collection.
Lina and Kazimierz Moszkowski survived the war, but their property was lost during the Warsaw Uprising.
On 28 March 1943, a friend of mine, whom I knew from classes in protestant religion education, showed up in our flat: she was Joanna Berland, daughter of lawyer Jerzy Berland. She told us that while she was out criminal police had arrested her parents, sealed their flat, and that she herself was now wanted (she was warned by the neighbors in time). To date, the fortunes of her parents are completely unknown.
Asked if, under these circumstances, my parents would agree to put her up, my mother immediately offered her the opportunity to stay with us until the end of the war and continue her secret education (we were in the same class).
Joanna came without any personal belongings or sources of livelihood. My parents helped her obtain a false ID in the name of Joanna Borowicz, together with forged registration documents. She lived with us for a few months and then she moved in with her relatives, who were better-off (our flat was unheated and food rations were worse than meager), but she kept visiting us. We have been friends all our lives, that is, for over 60 years.