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Well mannered bandits
Marek Edelman Social activist
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You could say that the worst terrorists, if that's what you can call those people, the worst bandits, it might already have been the Gestapo although it wasn't organised yet, were the airmen, the young boys. That story about them shaving off the beards of Jewish men in the streets, making them stand on barrels, having fun in this way, that was usually the work of these airmen. They were well brought up boys, from good homes. When they came along and wanted to steal something, they weren't professional burglars, so when they came to Mr and Mrs Kierson, she was a doctor for many years at the Medem sanatorium, they came to her parents to search their home. Where should they look for gold in a house like that? One young lad, an airman, decided the gold would be hidden behind the curtain rail. He was tall so he pulled up a chair to stand on but the chair wasn't a hard one with a wooden bottom but soft and covered with fabric. His mummy had obviously taught him that he's not allowed to stand on a chair like that in his boots, so he placed a newspaper on the chair first and then climbed onto it to search for gold under the curtain rail. They didn't find the gold, they found nothing because these people weren't rich, so they just beat them up and left. But the airmen were very brutal young people, very brutal indeed. They'd beat people in the streets, they'd catch them walking down the streets in smaller or larger groups, closing off parts of the street, and start the beatings. Karmelicka Street was narrow, a through road and there were a lot of Jews there. They'd close off the street - I wonder why most of the beatings happened there? There were a lot of beatings on Żelazna Street, too. That Jew was made to stand on a barrel on Żelazna Street, that's where they shaved off his beard. I don't know where they got hold of those huge, tailor's scissors, that's what they looked like. That was the first period of awful terror but it was totally chaotic.

Najgorsi, najgorsi terroryści, jeżeli można powiedzieć, jeżeli to można tak nazwać tych ludzi, najgorsi bandyci, bo przecież może już było Gestapo, jeszcze nie było zorganizowane, to byli lotnicy, młodzi chłopcy. Młodzi chłopcy lotnicy. Ta historia z tym, że obcinali te brody Żydom na ulicy, stawiali na beczce, robili taką zabawę, to właśnie robili lotnicy przeważnie. Poza tym to byli dobrze wychowani chłopcy, bo jak... z dobrych domów, bo jak na przykład przychodzili, chcieli coś zrabować, nie byli to fachowcy od rabowania, więc przyszli do państwa Kiersonów, do takiej lekarki, która była w sanatorium Medema wiele lat lekarką, do jej rodziców przyszli do domu no i rewizja. Więc gdzie tu szukać u takich ludzi złota. Taki facecik, lotniczek młody wymyślił, że to złoto będzie schowane pod ramą, gdzie firanka wisi. Był wysoki, przystawił sobie krzesło, ale krzesło nie było twarde, taka deska, tylko miekkie - pokryte materiałem, więc mamusia widocznie go nauczyła, że nie wolno stawać butami na takim krześle, więc podłożył sobie gazetę, stanął na krześle i szukał złota pod tą ramą. Złota nie znaleźli, nic nie znaleźli, bo to nie byli bogaci ludzie, no pobili ich i poszli. Ale lotnicy byli bardzo brutalni, młodzi ludzie, ale bardzo brutalni. Na ulicach bili, łapali tych ludzi strasznie, szli grupami po kilka, kilkunastu takich lotników, zamykali kawałek ulicy, bili. Karmelicka była wąska ulica, taka przelotowa, było tam bardzo dużo Żydów, zamykali, ciekawe dlaczego tam, na tamtej ulicy najwięcej bili. Jeszcze na Żelaznej też bili, to jest prawda. Tego Żyda na beczce to postawili na ulicy Żelaznej, tu mu obcięli brodę, nie wiem skąd wzięli takie wielkie, krawieckie nożyce, tak to wyglądało. To był ten pierwszy okres strasznego terroru, ale takiego chaotycznego.

Marek Edelman (1919-2009) was a Jewish-Polish political and social activist and a noted cardiologist. He was the last surviving leader of the 1943 uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Following the Second World War, he took an active part in domestic and international politics, dedicating himself to fighting for justice and peace.

Listeners: Joanna Klara Agnieszka Zuchowska Anka Grupinska Joanna Szczesna

Joanna Klara Agnieszka 'Aga' Zuchowska, urodzona 20 stycznia 1938. Ojciec zginal w Katyniu. Po wojnie zamieszkala w Lodzi. Studia ukonczyla w 1960 r. a specjalizacje z chorób wewnetrznych w 1973 r. Doktorat obronila we Wroclawiu. Pracowala z Markiem Edelmanen przez 15 lat. W 1982 r. wyjechala do Algerii. Wrócila do Polski w 1985 r. i mieszka obecnie w Lodzi.

Joanna Klara Agnieszka 'Aga' Zuchowska was born 20 January 1938. Her father was killed in the Katyń massacre. After the war, she moved from Warsaw to Lódz. She obtained a degree in medicine in 1960, qualifying as a specialist in internal medicine in 1973. Dr Zuchowska worked with Marek Edelman for 15 years. In 1982 she left Poland for Algeria where she remained for the next three years, returning to Poland in 1985. She currently lives in Lódz.

Anka Grupinska ukonczyla filologie angielska na UAM w Poznaniu. Wspólpracowala z poznanskimi pismami podziemnymi, wraz z innymi zalozyla i wydawala dwumiesiecznik "Czas Kultury". W latach 1988-1989 przebywala w Izraelu opracowujac wspomnienia ocalalych z Zaglady. W latach 1991-1993 pracowala jako attaché kulturalny w ambasadzie polskiej w Tel Awiwie. Od 1996 mieszka w Polsce. Anka Grupinska specjalizuje sie w tematyce stosunków polsko-zydowskich. Publikuje ksiazki (m. in. Wydawnictwo Literackie, Zydowski Instytut Historyczny, Twój Styl), artykuly prasowe (m. in. "Tygodnik Powszechny", "Rzeczpospolita"), realizuje projekty wystawiennicze. Jest takze koordynatorem miedzynarodowego projektu "Swiadek zydowskiego wieku" (archiwizowanie pamieci o zydowskiej przedwojennej Polsce), prowazi autorska audycje radiowa "O Zydach i o Polakach tez" i uczy warszawskich studentów sztuki czytania i pisanie tekstów literackich.

Anka Grupinska studied English at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. She wrote for Poznan’s underground publications and was herself one of the founding publishers of the bi-monthly Czas Kultury. She spent 1988 and 1989 in Israel compiling reminiscences of Holocaust survivors. From 1991 to 1993, she held the post of Cultural Attache at the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. She moved back to Poland in 1996 and now writes books on Jewish subjects, mainly dealing with the history of the Warsaw ghetto. She is also a freelance journalist for Tygodnik Powszechny. Anka Grupinska is the director of the Centropa Foundation project in Poland (oral history project) called “The Witness of the Jewish Century¿, presents her own radio programme, “Of Jews and of Poles too¿, and teaches creative writing and oral history in Collegium Civitas and SWPS in Warsaw.

Joanna Szczesna, dziennikarka "Gazety Wyborczej", autorka - wraz z Anna Bikont - biografia polskiej noblistki "Pamiatkowe rupiecie, przyjaciele i sny Wislawy Szymborskiej". Od lat 70-tych zwiazana z opozycja demokratycznaw Polsce, wspólpracowniczka Komitetu Obrony Robotników, wspóltwórczyni prasy niezaleznej w Polsce: redaktorka "Biuletynu Informacyjnego KOR-u", Agencji Prasowej "Solidarnosc" i "Tygodnika Mazowsze".

Joanna Szczesna is a journalist writing for Gazeta Wyborcza. Together with Anna Bikont, she’s the author of Pamiatkowe rupiecie, przyjaciele i sny Wislawy Szymborskiej (The Recollected Flotsam, Friends and Dreams of Wislawa Szymborska) a biography of Wislawa Szymborska, the Polish winner of the Noble Prize for Literature. Since the 1970s, Joanna Szczesna has been involved with the democratic opposition movement in Poland, active in the Worker’s Defence Committee (KOR), the co-founder of the independent press in Poland: editor of KOR’s Information Bulletin, Solidarnosc Press Agency and Tygodnik Mazowsze.

Tags: Gestapo, Madem Sanatorium, Karmelicka Street, Jews, Żelazna Street

Duration: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008