March 24th is recognized by Poland as the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Rescuing Jews under German Occupation during world War II.
On October 15, 1941 during the German occupation of Poland during World War II, the Germans issued a decree that anyone who provided any form of aid to Jews would receive the death penalty. For Poland, the symbol of Polish martyrdom for helping Jews is the Ulma family of Markowa. At the end of 1942, Józef and Wiktoria, who lived with their six children welcomed to their home eight Jews from the Goldman, Grünfeld and Didner families. Everyone, including the seventh child in Wiktoria's womb, were murdered by the German police on 24 March 1944. That day, March 24th, was chosen as a day for Poland’s Remembrance of Poles who saved Jews.
This is the story of Righteous Gentile Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter, Helena Liniewska-Halamajowa.
Photo: Museum of Jewish History NYC
On September 1, 1939, the day Germany attacked Poland and the world's worst war began, Moshe Maltz started keeping a diary. He wrote regular entries in it until V-E Day on May 8, 1945. Without his detailed account of the period in hiding, without the exact names of people, places and streets he so assiduously recorded, it's doubtful that his granddaughter Judy Maltz would have known where to start to tell the story of the hiding of his family during World War II by Franciszka Halamajowa.
Moshe Maltz and his family lived in the town of Sokal, Poland in what is today Ukraine. In 1942, after the occupation of the town, a ghetto was established by the Germans. When the Germans began rounding up Jews, Moshe and his wife searched for somewhere to hide outside the ghetto. They approached Franciszka Halamajowa and she agreed to hide them in the attic above her pigsty. Moshe Maltz went into hiding in November 1942 with his wife, son and extended family – Moshe's mother, Rivka Maltz, his sisters Chaya-Dvora, Yetta and Leah with her daughter Chashke (known as Fran). About six months later, they were joined by Moshe's brother Shmelke and the four members of the Kindler family.
Franciszka, a Polish-Catholic woman in her late 50s and her daughter Helena, a young woman in her twenties, cared for the hidden Jews. Halamajowa's son who worked in the area, also assisted.
Judy Maltz, journalist and granddaughter of Moshe Maltz writes: “Francisca Halamajowa, a Polish-Catholic woman in her late 50s from the East Galician town of Sokal, risked her life to save 15 Jews during the Holocaust, among them my father and grandparents. She hid two Jewish families in her pigsty and one Jewish family in a hole under her kitchen floor. For 20 months, she supplied them with pots of food and carried out their buckets of waste. How exactly my family came to know Francisca Halamajowa is still a mystery. What I do know is that in November 1942, after more than 4,000 Jews had been rounded up in the Sokal ghetto and herded off by train to the gas chambers of Belzec, my grandfather snuck out of the ghetto at night and made his way to her home. When he asked if she'd agree to hide the surviving members of the family, her response, almost preposterous in its matter-of-factness, was: "Why not?"
During the long months of hiding under frightening and indescribable conditions, the hidden Jews had to make difficult decisions. One such decision involved the child Chaske’s(Fran) incessant screaming which threatened the lives not only of the all the Jews in hiding but the Halamajowa family as well. Anyone found harboring or helping Jews also faced the death sentence. It was decided to poison the child but the child miraculously survived. As did the rest of the family hidden in the attic of the pigsty and another Jewish family under the floor of her kitchen. Of the 6,000 Jews that lived in Sokal, only 30 survived, half of them saved by Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter.
On March 29, 1984, Yad Vashem recognized Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter, Helena Liniewska-Halamajowa, as Righteous Among the Nations.
In 1949, child survivor Chaske(Fran)moved with her family to the United States. In 2007, she returned to Sokal with her cousin, filmmaker Judy Maltz, to film a documentary titled “No. 4 Street of Our Lady,” to give recognition to Franciszka Hamalajowa and the rescue of the family. The jotting down of the address by Moshe Maltz in his diary enabled his granddaughter to begin the story. “No.4 Street of Our Lady” which was the address of Franciszka’s home.
The film draws on excerpts from the diary kept by Moshe Maltz, Judy Maltz’s grandfather who was also Fran’s uncle, and incorporates testimonies from Fran, other rescued Jews, and Franciszka’s two granddaughters as they reconnect on a journey back to Sokal.
Watch the video titled “No.4 Street of Our Lady” which tells the remarkable, yet little-known, story of Francisca Halamajowa, a Polish-Catholic woman who rescued 16 of her Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.