Good Walls Make Good Neighbors

Excerpt from the article:

German soldiers were murdering children in the market square and leading the last Jews from Korczyna to death. She was eleven years old. Her mother told her to go over to a stranger. She didn’t say anything else and didn’t give her anything to take with her. The man put her on his bike and rode away like a father who had accidentally taken his daughter to the wrong place. She didn’t thank his family when she left his home three years later. She couldn’t even bring herself to turn around and look at the place where her life had been saved.

The war story of the family which saved little Madeleine’s life ended with a tragedy that remains unresolved to this day.


Jadwiga: We thought that hiding and taking care of a child wouldn’t be that hard. We would just let her mix with our kids, say she was our cousin’s or some other relative’s childno problem. We let her run about the garden and move around inside the house with no special precautions or anything. But you know, as the saying goes, ‘good walls make good neighbors’. Problems, as ever, never leave us in peace for long. Naturally, the neighbors’ curiosity grew. Before you knew it, they were asking questions: “who’s that, where did she come frommaybe she’s a little Jewish girl?” They must have seen her in town before. There was no time to waste; we were frightened. We realised that we had to hide Zosia (Madeleine) so that prying eyes could not find her. Only household members and the closest family could know about her.

Andrzej: The Germans were ruthless murderersthere’s no question about that. But our parents were also very afraid of our neighbors as well as any Poles working for the German administration in Korczyna. These people, just like our local Catholic priests, felt no solidarity with the Jews and their behavior deserves nothing less than condemnation. Some of the local intelligentsia, including the people who took over from my grandmother when she retired, were no different. My parents never asked for help from anyone, but it would have been a lot easier for them to help if the local population had had even a modicum of compassion for what was happening to the Jews. Sometimes we had other Jews staying at our placenot just Zosia (Madeleine). Our parents gave them all shelter, fully aware of the threat posed by both Germans and Poles.


Jadwiga: Late in the evening on that same tragic day, three more Jews showed up at our doorstep. They had somehow managed to escape the pogrom. They begged for help. We saw the horror in their eyes, the hopeless despair, and we couldn’t just turn them away—we had to hide them. All four, including Zosia (Madeleine), spent that first night in the densest thicket of our garden. There, wrapped in blankets, four human hearts pounded in fear under a silent sky.

Translation: Aga Zano

Proofreading: Barbara Pendzich, Maximilian Eisenhardt

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