Lachert, the Law Courts on Leszno and Saska Kępa

Written by: Olga Szymańska
When we think of Bohdan Lachert we immediately think „Muranów”. But during the occupation his house on Saska Kępa was important Underground hub.

His name is tied up with the postwar history of one of the Warsaw’s neighbourhoods — Southern Muranów. Borden Lachert is the author of the conception of this estate-monument erected on the Warsaw’s ghetto. This architect is well known not only to those interested in the history of Polish capital, historians and architects, but also to participants of guided walks learning about the history during weekend events. However, one of the less known episodes in Bohdan Lachert and his wife Irena’s lives happened during the German occupation on the other bank of Vistula river — in Saska Kępa. History of Maksymilian, Alicia and Piotruś leads us to 1950 and the documents collected in the Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute.

During the war Irena and Bohdan Lachert lived in their home in Saska Kępa, on 9 Katowicka Street, which owing to their commitment to the Resistance movement became an important contact point for those involved in clandestine activity. Irena Lachert, social activist in pre-war Poland, during the occupation was an active member of Żegota (Council to Aid Jews) and Union of Armed Struggle. Because of her activity house on Katowicka St. became a place where Resistance members were meeting, underground bulletins were distributed, meetings of the Home Army Headquarters were held, as well as trainings of its rank and file, whereas in its garage automobiles of the Kedyw (Pol. Directorate for Subversion) were parked. In those war days Irena Lachert was known by her nom de guerre „Agata” but was also frequently called „Auntie”. It was her to whom Silent Unseen” or „Dark and Silent” (elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Army in exile) came right making their way to occupied Warsaw. One of them, Stefan Jankowski, remembered: »Auntie« led us to our first »hot« clandestine apartment, provided us with our first forged documents, taught us the conspirational ABC of living in occupied Warsaw. She helped one man to get rid of fear that was unabling him to remain calm, the other she cured of unnecessary and stupid daredevilry. She was putting her neck in the noose for everyone. Her nickname »Auntie« was made naturally and sticked to her. Conspirational surnames were fake and often changed, so »Auntie« was the easiest. 

In the house in Saska Kępa Jews, friends and acquaintances of the Lacherts, rescued from the Warsaw Ghetto were hidden. During a year and a half six children found their way to their house. Irena Lachert in the „Agata Kowalska’s Diary (Irena Lacherte nee Nowakowska), Warsaw September 1939 — July 1944” wrote about one of them: The series was begun by the son of my husband’s colleague, a 12-year-old boy, remarkably clever and intelligent, who stayed with us for some time during the time when his parents were deciding whether to move into the ghetto on deadline or to stay on »our« side. At the eleventh hour they chose the former so I brought Piotr back to them half an hour before closing of the ghetto. On the way back I had this unforgettable feeling like the coffin’s lid was closing over thousands of the living and the feeling of shame that I was allowed to leave.

A boy named Piotr was son of Alicia Godlewska and Maksymilian Goldberg, an architect from Warsaw. Goldberg formed duo of architects with Hipolit Rutkowski and they often competed with other duo of famous pre-war architects: Lachert & Szanajca. The Lacherts tried to coax Goldberg into leaving Ghetto, but his decision turned out to be final. He decided to stay in the Ghetto despite help offered him by his friends.

In the Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute is a collection of the documents titled: „Interviews on deceased Jewish architects”. In notebooks, on sheets of papers stapled together written down are the interviews and testimonies on life and work of Jewish architects, especially about their wartime fortunes and circumstances of their death. These handwritten with pen notes are marked by the date of doing the interview, name and surname of interviewed person, place of residence, place of work and contact phone. Among these transcripts we find a sheet of paper that reads: „Interview with citizen professor engineer Lachert, Bohdan; working at Management of Workers’ Estates Senatorska [Street] 37, lives on Katowicka, 24 VII 1950. Here is how he remembered his friend and competitor at the same time: One of the most outstanding architects. Phenomenal memory. Subtle and sharp intelligence. Wonderful orator and satirist. Professor agrees with the curricilum vitae given by his wife and with the fact that he [Goldberg] was dead before he actually died and that is why he cut himself off from reality, even though he had undisturbed perception of it.

To the documents attached is typed curriculum vitae of Maksymilian Goldber written by his wife. Besides the description of his education and, list of numerous projects and urban planning conceptions as well as award which he had received, Alicia Godlewska emphasizes social activity of her husband. While being in the Ghetto he finished writing course book on Renaissance architects Palladi and Viagnoli and taught at construction school. Further on she explains her husband’s decision on staying in the Ghetto: He resolved to go to the Ghetto as he thought that by staying at his friends’ in Warsaw he would imperil them with his presence. (...) Their frequent visits and meetings with them in the Law Courts [on Leszno Street] were moments of relaxation for him. Barbara Brukalska was right at the time when she had said that Maksymilian is saving an artist and a human being in him, not his biological existence. The main reason he did not try to rescue himself was concern that he could have imperilled somebody, and that is why he denied himself any options his friends and colleagues.

In June 1941 Bohdan Lachert walked Piotruś Goldberg through the Law Courts Building on Leszno Street. After two months spent on 9 Katowicka St. the boy was sent to friends’ family where he was given forged’ „Aryan” documentsThanks to them he was able to survive. Maksymilian Goldberg stayed in the Ghetto until its very end. He was killed in August 1942 during its liquidation. 

Bohdan Lachert died in Warsaw on January 8th 1987.



Olga Szymańska   Edukatorka ŻIH