- About the Institute
Emilia Kossower-Rozencwajg, photo from Rina Baror's collection
On 27 April 2022, the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, awarded the Commander's Crosses of the Order of Polonia Restituta to Poles who saved Jews during World War II. The award was handed over to the relatives of Pajewski and Kossower by Wojciech Kolarski, the Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. The Order was also awarded to seven other people: Jan Hondra, Halina and Marian Dworczyk, Aleksandra and Jan Góral, Katarzyna and Stanisław Sierański.
Convinced of the uniqueness and courageous achievements of both heroes, Dr. Artur Podgórski, currently a member of the Research Department of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, has sought to award them the Order since 2019. The initiative was first adopted by the Institute of National Remembrance with the consent of its director, Jarosław Szarek, and it then gained the support of the JHI directorship as an opportunity to emphasize the Polish-Jewish brotherhood in arms.
After the ceremony, Ms. Rina Baror, daughter of Emilia Kossower-Rozencwajg, visited the permanent exhibition at the JHI, devoted to the Ringelblum Archive. Our guest was guided by Dr. Artur Podgórski as well as Dr. Bartosz Borys from the Education Department.
JHI directorship with the descendants of the awarded, Belweder Palace / Ms. Rina Baror’s visit to the JHI
Teodor Pajewski was born in 1915 in Warsaw, in the Praga district. A scout, and soldier of the 7th Lublin Uhlan Regiment, he fought in the 1939 defense of Poland. After being captured by the Soviets, he managed to escape from the POW camp and returned to Warsaw. He joined the Union of Armed Struggle, and then the ‘Walerian Łukasiński’ Battalion of the Polish Home Army.
Together with Emilia Kossower, Pajewski took an active part in saving Jews from the Germans. Together they went on missions to the German SS labor camps in the Lublin district, mainly to Poniatowa, as well as to Trawniki (Świdnik district) and Budzyń (Kraśnik district). They were an inseparable pair of emissaries acting on behalf of the Home Army and the Council to Aid Jews.
In March 1943, Pajewski took Rachel Auerbach, a writer and member of the conspiratorial group Oneg Shabbat, out of the Warsaw Ghetto. After the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943, he got actor and director Jonas Turkow and his wife Diana Blumenfeld to the so-called “Aryan” side of the ghetto wall; he hid both in his apartment at 8 Brukowa Street.
In 1943 he freed Pola Elster, an activist in Poalej Syjon-Lewica, from the SS labor camp in Poniatowa. Among the people he helped, there were also Aron Fajgenblum, Bela Fajgenblum, Rachela Fajgenblum, Izaak Goldman, and Josek Klajbard. Some of the people of Jewish origin he took care of are known today only by their surnames or first names: Engelberg, Grzybowski, Luksenburg, Ms. Zawadzka, and Ms. Breitman. Sometimes we do not even know the names, as in the case of the wife of a carpenter from Radzymin or escapees from the “Gęsiówka” prison.
In 1977, thanks to the initiative of Arnold Szyfman, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded Pajewski with the Righteous Among the Nations medal. Pajewski died in Birmingham in 1986.
Szoszana Kossower was born on May 10th 1922 in Radzymin near Warsaw. Her parents were Aron-Jozef and Sara nee Elman. During the war, she used the name Emilka.
In 1942, thanks to the help of Kazimierz Kołaczyński, Emilka Kossower escaped with her family from the ghetto in Radzymin and came to Warsaw under the name of Emilia Hodkowska. Thanks to the support of the family of Stefan and Helena Burchacki, she found shelter in Warsaw’s Praga district. She was active in the underground against the German occupier under the pseudonyms “Jadwiga Ledźwińska” and “Wanda Borkowska”. She belonged to Betar – a Jewish right-wing youth organisation. She was a liaison officer of the Jewish Military Union (ŻZW), one of the two, next to the Jewish Combat Organisation, structures of the armed resistance movement in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Kossower was actively involved in organising help for Jews. Together with Pajewski, she helped to lead from the Warsaw Ghetto to the “Aryan” side, among others: writer Rubin Feldszuh with his wife and daughter, actor and director Jonas Turkow, soldiers of the Jewish Combat Organisation Hersz Berliński and Eliahu Erlich.
One of the most important achievements of Kossower and Pajewski was the liberation of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, creator of Oneg Shabat group and the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, from the German SS labor camp in Trawniki. The heroine herself recalled: “I got a beautiful letter from his son thanking him for saving his father”. In 1943, together with Pajewski, she attempted to liberate more Jews from the German labor camp in Poniatowa, but helping became impossible when the Germans shot 14,800 prisoners of this camp during Operation Erntefest on November 4th 1943.
Thanks to the help of Kołaczyński and Olgierd Ostkiewicz-Rudnicki, Emilka Kossower joined the ‘Walerian Łukasiński’ Battalion of the Home Army and participated in the Warsaw Uprising as a liaison and distributor of the underground press. “I copied newspapers, information from London, and distributed them to different places,” she recalled. Chaim Lazar wrote that she was also the commander of the liaison officers and nurses. After the fall of the Warsaw Old Town, she passed through the sewers to Śródmieście, and then on the day of the surrender of the Uprising on October 2nd 1944, she left Warsaw. Kossower spent the rest of the war in the POW camp in Oberlangen (Stalag VI-C). She died on June 17, 2008 in Tel Aviv.
The Jewish Historical Institute has made efforts to commemorate Teodor Pajewski, Emanuel Ringelblum – the patron of the Jewish Historical Institute – and all people such as Fr. Zygmunt Lament, who together with Pajewski formed a group helping Jews. In August 2022, we plan to unveil a commemorative plaque at 2 Radzymińska Street in Warsaw. Pajewski's sister-in-law, Stanisława Jaszczyk, lived at this address, and it was there that Ringelblum found shelter in August 1943, after leaving the German labor camp in Trawniki. Also in 2022, we are planning a ceremony to award Teodor Pajewski’s son with the Righteous Among the Nations medal, which was awarded to his father years ago.
To this day, both 2Lt. Teodor Pajewski and Emilia Kossower-Rosenzweig, despite many merits to the Polish and Jewish nations, did not get a broader biography and their proper place in modern history. Knowledge about their achievements should reach not only the group of researchers, but also the Polish and Israeli society. As the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, we will strive to cultivate the memory of the heroes.
Information about Pajewski and Kossower was provided by Dr. Artur Podgórski.