We went to the ghetto, to meet Korczak

Before the war my parents found me an amazing French teacher, Maria Lewartowska. Her mother Zofia was a beautiful woman. When Maria found our that they had to move from Puławska St. to the ghetto she wrote me a letter.

Wide plac
Kercelego Sq (Kercelak) before the war  /  Ze zbiorów ŻIH

She knew that many tears would fall. Because we became friends and we became attached to each other. She preferred to write. The letter was very long. She wrote me to study hard and to be nice to her successor. She also wrote that we meet when the time comes. I regret that this letter — as all the memorabilia — burned during the war.
Before the ghetto was established my parents had a store at Solna St. So after the ghetto was created they had to move it and so they had permits to go in and out of the ghetto. My mom once took me with her to meet my French teacher, which in turn initiated a meeting with Dr Korczak. I was 13. At Maria’s in the ghetto I was invited for a very modest lunch. Maria and Zofia lived then at Elektoralna St. I was very sad to see Maria with the armband. And I was thinking to myself if I should ask her about it or not. But I decided not to say anything. 

We went to Korczak’s house. Maria asked me if I wasn’t afraid to be walking around the ghetto. I said: “With you I am not afraid.” We went to the first orphans home at Chłodna St. A small girl took care of me there. Her name was Rywka for sure. She knew four languages. She walked me around and showed me what was where. Very nice girl, very well behaved. She showed me where the children could go outside. They only had to sign when going entering and stepping outside. The girl stayed on the ground floor and the rest of us went to meet Korczak. He was very sad, hardly said anything. He shaked my hand. I think he was sad because he was looking at girl, who had a chance to survive, and his children did not have that chance.

My parents were friends with another Jewish family. Their name was Hufnagel. They baptised before the war, after their son, Jaś, passed away. The head of the family, Mieczysław was a lawyer. Kazia born Prechner was a doctor and their daughter Hania was less than 4. Before the war, together we went for vacations in Świder. In Warsaw they lived right by Czerwonego Krzyża St. In the ghetto Mieczysław signed up to the Jewish Police to save his family. He succeeded twice, but the third time they took them. And he went with them. When my mom still had that permit she used to bring Hania to our house. To let her play and eat something. She was so little but already knew how to read. „I can read, but daddy says it’s too early,” she used to say. Once the permit expired my mother used to meet with Kazia in the courts [Sądy]. Also with Maria she would meet there. Sometimes she would take some meats with her. Kazia every day used to go to the church in the ghetto at Grzybowski Sq.

My father, Antoni Wacław Kossowicz, before the war was head of the tobacco monopoly. When the Germans offered him to prelong his contract, he lied to them he knew no German. They fired him, but he got the license of tobacco and a lot of people lived of it. A few vendors, including Stanisław, whom my father taught to read and write. And at that time, many Jews began to come to my father asking for money. He urged everyone to go out of the ghetto. And so there was one miller, who agreed to take Maria to his house — without paying. But also without her mother. So of course she stayed as she would not leave her mother. There was only one Jew whom we were told to always say that father was away. He was a terrible man. He told my father that he wanted to go out with his wife. Father sent Stanislaw to meet him. When Stanislaw returned from the meeting he was very angry. Father asked what happened. „I punched him in the face!” It turned out that this man came to the meeting with some other rich man, instead of his wife.

And one more thing about our shop at Solna St. We exchanged our shops with another salesman, whose shop was at Karcelego Sq. He only asked my father to bring him from this shop hidden valuables. He described where they were hidden. But my father was a very honest and brave man. He gave the man his permit, telling him to go on his own to the store and take what he wanted. And he had waited in the ghetto for a few hours until the man returned.” 

The text was written based on conversation with Mrs. Halina Kossowicz from Warsaw, whom we met in April 2014.

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