web analytics
August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Aging Rescuers of Holocaust Survivors Paid Debt of Gratitude

Czeslaw Polziec and Leon Gersten meet together for first time since 1944.

Czeslaw Polziec and Leon Gersten meet together for first time since 1944.
Photo Credit: ewish Foundation for the Righteous

Thousands of non-Jews from across Europe and Eastern Europe saved Jewish lives from the horrors of the Holocaust, placing their lives and the lives of their families at risk. Over 25,000 known non-Jews have been recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” including Christians and Muslims.

Today many of these rescuers are aging and living in poverty. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) founded by American Rabbi Harold Schulweis in 1986 is one non-profit organization that seeks to repay the debt of gratitude by providing financial support to those non-Jewish rescuers in need.

JFR provides on-going monthly financial assistance to 654 rescuers in 22 countries to pay for food, housing and medical expenses. The rescuers are often reluctant to ask for help, having acted without expecting a reward then or now according to the organization’s website. One of those recipients is Czeslaw Polziec, whose family took in a Jewish family and hid them for two years on their farm in Zawadka, Poland. This past Chanukah, JFR reunited Czeslaw Polziec with a member of the Jewish family that his parents rescued, Dr. Leon Gersten of Cedarhurst, New York.

Leon Gersten grew up in the Jewish shtetl of Frysztak, Poland. His mother, Frieda Tepper Gersten was a peddler who traveled throughout southern Poland to support her family. Her parents, Yitzchak and Necha Tepper raised Leon.

Gersten recalls how on Rosh Hashana in 1939, all the Jews of his community were praying in the shtetl synagogue, when the Germans surrounded the building and started shooting. “We all laid down on the floor and started praying Shema Yisrael. After killing a few Jews, they let us out – that was our first introduction to the Germans,” remembers Gersten.

“It’s one thing to kill a few people, it’s another to kill everybody, where every Jewish soul, every baby was on the most wanted list,” says Gersten.

On July 1942, the Germans ordered all of Frysztak’s Jews to gather in the animal marketplace. Around 1,600 Jews were rounded up- mostly elderly and children – and taken outside of town, where they were killed and buried in a mass grave. Leon’s grandparents, Yitzchak and Necha, were among those murdered.

After the mass killing, Leon’ s mother, Frieda, went out to the countryside dressed up as a Polish Catholic woman to try and find someone to take in her family. She went to Polish families who had purchased goods from her, and although a number of homes turned her away, one couple, Maria and Stanislaw Polziec agreed to provide shelter for her family. Maria, a seamstress, and Staninslaw, a farmer, had five children and barely enough food for their own family, but they were willing to house the five desperate Jews.

For more than two years, Leon Gersten, his mother, Frieda, her sister and brother-in-law, Celia and Herman Wiesenfeld and their son Moshe, were kept hidden from the Nazi occupiers in the Polziecs’ attic.

The Polziecs also built an underground earthen bunker that they covered with a grain storage bin in case of a raid. One night, recalls Leon, German soldiers raided the farm. “We were very organized and ran down to the bunker but the German soldiers heard us. They suspected the Polziecs of hiding Jews and proceeded to beat Stanislaw who tried to tell them it was his children sleeping in the attic that had run down scared.”

“We could hear Stanislaw screaming and the cries from the Polziec family but not one of them said a word about us,” recalls Gersten. “There was one goal and that was to keep Frieda and her family safe until the Soviet Army arrived,” said Czeslaw, who was the oldest son in the family and responsible for bringing the Gerstens food and standing guard.

About the Author: Anav Silverman is a regular contributor to Tazpit News Agency.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Aging Rescuers of Holocaust Survivors Paid Debt of Gratitude”

  1. Hallelujah , that’s how we should be , help one another

  2. ”What about the many ”Non-Jews” that played an important role?”

  3. Sounds like there will be more need for saviors in Ukraine.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Swiss Amb. to Iran Giulo Haas presents his credentials to Iranian Pres. Rouhani
‘US and Iranian Cartoon Doves’ Shown Defecating on Bibi by Swiss Amb to Iran
Latest News Stories
Swiss Amb. to Iran Giulo Haas presents his credentials to Iranian Pres. Rouhani

Swiss Ambassador Portrays U.S. and Iran as doves of peace defecating on Netanyahu.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

He will arrive Sunday and will be “updated on strategic issues,” meaning Iran.

Orthodox Jews fixing an eruv pole in Israel.

The boundary, enabling Jewish students to carry on Shabbat, will be made of plastic “lechies” on utility poles.

The former "Shanghai Ghetto" area, where Jewish refugees lived, in 1943.

The café opened in 1939 and was closed n 1949.

A growing number of Arabs in Gaza are calling on people to burn down Hamas institutions.

An Oxford University professor’s new book uncovers what most Israelis know – that the Americans are not “Wild West” cowboys.

A report by the entity responsible for ensuring the peaceful development of nuclear energy worldwide and the one upon which the world depends for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity revealed that over the past few months Iran has been working on and adding to a building at its Parchin site. Parchin is an Iranian military complex located southeast of Tehran. It […]

Israeli artists build an ice wall at the Davidson Center, near the Kotel in Jerusalem. The wall was based on a piece by American artist Allan Kaprow who built something similar in Israel, in 1980, perpendicular to the Temple Mount. Photos by Yonatan Sindel / Flash90.

About 30 protesters from the Jewish Defense League on Wednesday evening stood at a picket line holding Israeli and Canadian flags outside billionaire Bernard (Barry) Sherman’s north Toronto home during his cocktail fundraiser for the Liberal party.

Mughassil, 48, is believed to be the leader of the Iran-supported Hezbollah Al-Hejaz group.

The Donald and the Cruz together against Iran on Sept. 9 at D.C. rally.

Iranian born Tennor Ramtin Ghazavi, a frequent performer at Italy’s La Scala, on Tuesday told San Jose Mercury News that the Islamic revolution that removed the Shah in 1979 “takes a dim view” of most musical forms, including opera.

For a state that goes out of its way to discriminate in favor of one group, Israel receives high grades in treatment of immigrants of all colors and creeds, beating out the UK, the US and Saudi Arabia.

If the administrative orders weren’t undemocratic enough, police raided a conference discussing those orders, arresting a number of the participants.

DM Ya’alon advises “zero tolerance” in dealing with violence against hareidi-religious IDF soldiers.

Maloney said that despite the administration’s diplomatic efforts, she could not support the Nuclear Iran Deal.

More Articles from Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency
A dolphin in Eilat

Not satire: Hamas released a warning to its members to be cautious of further encounters with dolphins.

Orna and Hodaya Giat originally from Kfar Darom stand near photos of their Gush Katif community at a photography exhibition at an event marking 10 years to the Disengagement at the President's Residence in Jerusalem July 2015

“I still wait to return,” Hodaya Giat said, “I still have hope that someday we can return to the beaches, to our homes.”

On board were 32 families including 95 children and 53 singles, of whom 12 will be joining the Israel Defense Forces.

The Temple Institute is working together with an Israeli cattleman to raise a red heifer in Israel.

The Israeli wetlands are among the 2,208 Ramsar wetland sites from across 169 countries around the world.

“The idea of adapting the unit actually came from our soldiers who recognized the need for it in the field,” explained Captain Dr. Lev.

The House of Bishops, led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, overwhelmingly defeated the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions resolution.

Mirella Petteni Haggiag, a former Italian model from Rome, makes her way through the tombstones with a garbage bag in her hand several times of year when she visits Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/aging-rescuers-of-holocaust-survivors-paid-debt-of-gratitude/2014/04/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: