Yeah.... for sure ...that's true.... my dad survived the German occupation of Poland.
On so-called Aryan papers, which were practically just Christian birth certificates.

Did he tell me about it? No, he never talked about it.
He said that he would like to erase that period of his life from his memory, but no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to do so.
Whenever it was mentioned, he became agitated... withdrawn, and often did not speak for days.

Did I ever try to get him to talk about it? To be honest, I never did.
When I was young, those things didn't interest me. It was the past...
You must live life in the present .... tomorrow may be too late.
Yesterday is dead and gone and will never come back.

What do you need those stories for? Who cares anymore?
To open old wounds? To find the guilty ones?
They are no longer alive, and their descendants have nothing to do with it.

My father only mentioned this story once.
What he said did not quite fit into the typical survivor mold. It deforms it a bit.

I'll tell you the story but forgive me if, after all those years, I might be a bit mixed about the details.

Our surname, Stabbich, is my father's Americanized Polish Aryan surname, Stabicki.
My father went to the States with this surname, but his family name was completely different.

My father's family lived in Warsaw. They were well assimilated Jews; however, they still observed Jewish holidays. They belonged to the upper-middle class.

It turned out to be important because after the Germans invaded Poland, my grandfather could afford to buy authentic Aryan papers for my father and his sister, who did not survive the war.
The documents belonged to deceased siblings from Kresy (the eastern part of the old Poland), where the Soviets burned their manor house and sent all survivors to Gulag camps in Siberia.

My father's family had to move to the ghetto.
My father escaped with his sister near the end of 1942.
It was then that my grandfather bought the Aryan papers and told my father and aunt to run and save themselves.
The rest of the family stayed in the ghetto.

My father and his sister got the address of a man in Rawa Mazowiecka town who, for a fee, would confirm their identity as Waldemar and Jadwiga Stabicki.
The man also recommended them to the people from the Underground, and my father joined the local branch of the Polish Home Army.
The same man was captured by the Germans and sent to a concentration camp.
So, in such a way, the last person who knew about their forged identity disappeared. This was important because some Home Army members, though eager to take revenge on the Germans, did not hide their dislike of Jews.

To further reduce the risk, my aunt lived in another place, however, my father visited her frequently.

Life went on as usual until mid-1943.
Then two misfortunes happened.
His sister broke her leg, and my father met Wacek.
Her broken leg caused my aunt to be grounded in her apartment.
My father was busy with his underground activities. But he always found time to go shopping for her because it was no one else to do it.
And then suddenly, on the street, he met Wacek.
Wacek was the son of Mrs. Leokadia, a former housekeeper in the apartment of my father's parents. Mrs. Leokadia lived in the same tenement house, and my father and Wacek played together when they were children. Then their ways parted, but they still knew each other.
When the family moved into the ghetto, Mrs. Leokadia was supposed to take care of their apartment.

The meeting with Wacek was very inconvenient for my father because here was someone who knew his true identity.
Wacek recognized my father and shouted immediately in the street, "Mietek! Is it you?".
And at the time, my father was already called Waldemar. So, my father denied it and said he was mistaken.
Wacek apologized and left. But two days later, he knocked on the apartment door where my father lived. Father had no choice but to let him in.

Wacek was very happy and started asking about my father's parents and his sister and talking about the old days. Then he mentioned that he was in financial trouble. My father asked Wacek where he lived, what he was doing, and what kind of trouble it was. Wacek said it would be safer if neither my father nor Wacek knew anything about each other and that his financial trouble was his business. My father asked if he could help and how much money was involved. It was about 500 zlotys.
Wacek got the sum and left.

But it didn't stop there. Wacek "stopped by" from time to time to see my father.
He never "refused" when my father offered him money.
Sometimes it was 100 zlotys, sometimes 200 zlotys.
Wacek never made any threats, but my father felt they both knew what was going on.

Wacek even found my father when he moved to another place.
He also found my aunt's living place, where she was still immobile because of her leg.

Then one time he came and said he needed 10,000.
It had to be fast, or else a human life would be in danger.
Father told him to come back the same evening.
It appeared that Wacek was just a common blackmailer - "szmalcownik".
To escape from the clutches of such a person would be impossible.
Due to his false identity, my father could not involve the Home Army.
And because of his sister's condition, escape was out of the question.

My father made a decision.
When Wacek came again, my father asked him to help him dig out a hidden box with gold because he did not have that much cash.
That night they started digging together in a nearby grove where my father supposedly had buried the box.
When the pit looked a bit too deep, my father pulled out a pistol and shot Wacek!

Wacek was completely surprised and just managed to say:" It's not what you ..." when my father shot him a second time.
My father finished digging the grave with trembling hands, put Wacek into it, and covered him with soil.

And so, it seemed my father and his sister escaped the danger of denunciation.
My father then involved his sister in the Underground work, and she managed to get to Warsaw, where she later died in the Warsaw Uprising.

My father was left alone in the world.
After the liberation of Warsaw, he went back.
The house where they lived before the war was destroyed, but he met Mrs. Leokadia.
She was happy to see him and said it was nice to see at least one person she knew who survived the war since neither her son, Wacek, nor her daughter did it.

She said she took care of the parents' apartment until the Germans who moved into the building threw her out.
They were hard times.
Wacek tried to find some jobs but it was not enough to cover their expenses.
One time they risked being expelled from where they lived, but fortunately, Wacek came up with 500 zlotys that were necessary to stay there.
Wacek said that he had met someone who would always help them, but he wouldn't say anything more.
Then when they caught her daughter in a round-up and she was about to be sent for slave work in Germany, someone told her it was possible to bribe a certain Volksdeutsch.
The bribe amount was a horrendous 10,000 zlotys, but Wacek said he would get it. He went out but never came back.
She said that Wacek always wanted to join the Underground, but they used him only for some leaflet transportation errands.
Anyway, he felt and acted like a real conspirator. At least in his mind...
And so.... since he never came back her daughter was deported to slave labor.

It was then my father realized that Wacek had never actually asked for money and that he had always thanked him profusely for the money that he gave him. It was only the last time he was in a hurry and pressed hard to get the ten thousand. But why didn't he say anything about their financial situation, and why didn't he mention his sister?
Was he afraid that my father would not believe him? Did it happen only because of Wacek's idea of conspiracy? Did my father really kill an innocent man who just wanted to save his sister from deportation?

My father left Poland, but he didn't forget about Mrs. Leokadia.
As soon as he could, he started sending her money.
From her letters, he learned that her daughter survived the deportation and had returned home.
That is how 30 years passed.
However, my father still felt guilty.
Finally, he wrote to Mrs. Leokadia. He did not get an answer and then sent a second letter but still did not get a response.
Then he sent a registered letter which was returned with the stamp "recipient refused to accept the delivery".

My father told me this story just before he died.
He said that he truly regretted his confession.
He did not know whether he expected forgiveness or just wanted to ease his conscience.
He had to live with it anyway. It didn't bring Wacek back to life.
It only opened Mrs. Leokadia's old wound.

Alex Wieseltier - Uredte tanker
Alle rettigheder forbeholdes 2019
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