Alfred Królikowski, born in 1928
Helped by Żegota
I was born on January 8, 1928, in Kraków, as the son of Zygmunt Leopold Szancer and Zofia Szancer, née Haber. Following family tradition, I was given the name Alfred after my paternal grandfather. My father, born on April 5, 1902, in Vienna, was the son of Alfred Szancer and Margareta Szancer, née Strakosch. My mother, born in Kraków on July 5, 1904, was the daughter of Wolf Wilhelm Haber and Alta-Schaindla Salomea, née Pechner.
Before the war we lived in Kraków—until 1935 at 31 Kazimierz Wielki Street and from 1935 to 1939 at 3 Chopin Street, Apt. 5. In 1934 I started elementary school at St. Wojciech’s Public Grammar School, No. 2, which had seven grades. In June 1939 I completed the fifth grade at St. Florian’s Public Grammar School for Boys, No.7. My father worked as manager of the purchasing department and also as the deputy director of a cable factory in Krakow. My mother did not work.
After the Germans occupied Kraków, Father remained in his position as manager of the purchasing department until October 1940. Due to his excellent knowledge of German (he had been brought up in Vienna until age nine) and his familiarity with the operations of the plant in which he had worked since 1929 in the same position, it was difficult for the new German management to replace him. The manager of the factory at the time, a German, Dr. Cappenberg, tried to keep him in his job as long as possible. However, Father was dismissed when the plant was designated as Rüstungsbetrieb (a defense plant), which was followed by a change in the character of the factory and its management.
At about that time we were thrown out of our apartment on Chopin Street. This street, as one of the more modern ones, became part of the German quarter. At the same time, we were also deprived of most of our belongings, such as furniture and household goods, which we had to leave for the new German tenants. For a brief period we stayed at 13 Potocki Street; from there we were resettled to Rzeszowska Street. This time, during the move, they took away from us all that remained of our personal articles and household goods. A Volksdeutscher by the name of Balko, who lived nearby, oversaw the loading of our belongings onto a truck, which he dispatched, with the help of gendarmes he had summoned, to a storage depot called the “Treuhandstelle” [trustees’ place].
Volksdeutscher/Volksdeutsche – Polish man/woman of German ori gin who received extra privileges by declaring loyalty to Germany.
Treuhandstelle [trustees’ place] was a storage depot for confiscated Jewish property.
We were never able to get anything back from there. We lost not only the rest of our furniture, antiques, paintings, porcelain, and crystal but also our personal belongings—such as clothes, underwear, and bed linen—as well as a valuable stamp and coin collection that my father and I had assembled. The only things saved were a briefcase with some documents (which were later hidden by the janitor from the factory, who offered to help Father), Mother’s purse with money, and some valuables—thanks to which we were able to survive those periods during the occupation when Father could not earn any money.
It was impossible to live in the empty apartment on Rzeszowska Street because of the expectation that it would later be included in the ghetto area, and my father was determined to avoid being enclosed in the ghetto. Thus he made contact with a former classmate, Father Stanisław Proszak, a parish priest in the village of Biały Kościół, eighteen kilometers from Kraków, in the direction of Ojców. This priest helped us a great deal, giving his guarantees on our behalf when we rented a room at a local farmer’s, and later, by recording in the parish books a fictitious baptism of our entire threesome (Father, Mother, and me) and issuing us certificates of baptism. At that time our given names were also changed for the first time—Father’s to Stanisław Zygmunt, Mother’s to Jadwiga Zofia, and mine to Jerzy Alfred. According to our thinking then—somewhat naive, as it turned out later—this was supposed to disorient the Germans in case they discovered our escape from Kraków.
On the basis of these documents and thanks to Father Proszak’s connections, we received temporary identification documents from the local administration—which we used as evidence of our identities for a brief period of time. For a time, Father, unable to make a living in the village, worked in Kraków at the Władysław Klimek Iron Foundry, owned by a friend of his, and on Sundays, he rode his bicycle to Biały Kościół. This lasted until the spring of 1941, when Father was warned—I don’t know how and by whom—of the necessity to flee further.
Our next stop was Słomniki, near Kraków, where Mr. Klimek had a little house in which he gave us shelter. The three of us lived there in a little room without any conveniences. We had to carry our water from a spring a half kilometer away. This was particularly difficult in the winter. My father was able to earn some money by writing applications to various authorities and institutions in German and Polish for local people. He devoted the remainder of his time to teaching me languages—which he knew thanks to his innate abilities (he knew German, English, French, and Italian)—and helped me, as much as he could, to go through high-school-level material. There we survived the extermination of the Jews of Słomniki, who were herded out of their homes one night, assembled in the surrounding fields, and then, in the morning, taken to the train station for deportation. We were saved by an Arische Wohnung [Aryan living quarters] sticker on the door of the house and our host’s verbal assurances, which we heard clearly through the door to the hallway, that there were no Jews living there.
In the spring of 1943, Father’s reputation as someone who wrote applications in excellent German had spread too far. He was called in by the Kreisleiter (regional administrator) in Miechów, where he was told that with a name like Szancer and such a knowledge of German, he must either come from a German family or he was a Jew. In the first case, he should fill out an application to be placed on a Volksliste. That very day, after Father’s return to Słomniki, we left for Kraków, taking with us—once again—only a briefcase full of documents and mother’s purse—with whatever still remained in it—as our means of support. Then, that same night, we boarded the first train to Warsaw.
The Volksliste was a list of Poles of German descent who had declared loyalty to Germany,
Once there, Father went to see an old friend of his, Mr. Jerzy Bielecki, who gave us shelter in his apartment. Mr. Bielecki, it turned out, was a very active member of the Home Army and of Żegota. He had plenty of contacts, thanks to which he got us false documents with new names—Edmund Królikowski for Father, Joanna Królikowska, maiden name Kozłowska, for Mother, and Alfred Jerzy Królikowski for me. Arrangements were also made to provide us with a temporary place to stay. For security reasons, we were all placed separately, especially since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had broken out at that time. My parents were placed in various hideouts in the Warsaw area, while I was placed with the family of a member of the organization, the Borysiewiczes, in Radość, near Warsaw (at 18 Kościelna Street). This again was a tiny room, a caretaker’s cubby, without any conveniences. In return for my room and board there, I helped with various tasks in the house and in the garden.
Home Army – English name for Armia Krajowa (AK), the organized underground army in Poland that reported to the Polish government-in-exile in London.
Żegota – branch of Polish underground organized to give assistance to Jews.
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto by the small population remaining after the deportation of some 400,000 Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp. Orga nized by the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB), it began on April 19, 1943, and continued until the burning of the ghetto in mid-May.
There, despite the general restrictions on my leaving the hideout, I attended secret courses along with the Borysiewiczes’ son, Adam. These courses, conducted by several teachers under the direction of Mr. Adam Tatomir, covered secondary-school-level material. The teaching took place at irregular times in various apartments made available by the parents of the course participants, mainly the Borysiewiczes and certain other trusted families. These were selected from among the acquaintances of the organizers, mainly people involved in the AK. As for me, after several dangerous run-ins with the Polish police and German patrols, earlier in Słomniki and later in Radość, I was rarely and only reluctantly allowed to leave the house.
I stayed in Radość until the arrival of the Soviet Army and the First Polish People’s Army on the last day of July 1944. When in September 1944 the front moved to Praga, our secret courses were converted into a private gymnasium and lyceum in Radość, where I finished the third grade of gymnasium [U. S. ninth grade].
The Polish People’s Army [Ludowe Wojsko Polskie], formed in 1944 when the Russians re-entered Poland, was a combination of the First Polish Army (see glossary), formed in the Soviet Union, and the People’s Army [Armia Ludowa], a leftist resistance movement operating inside Poland.
Praga is a district of Warsaw on the eastern bank of the Vistula River
After liberation I returned to Kraków, where I met up with my parents. Father tried to return to his job at the cable plant and to reclaim our apartment on Chopin Street. We also resumed using our last name, Szancer. However, it was not possible to recreate the pre-war situation. Father encountered an extraordinarily negative attitude from his old acquaintances, particularly the new management of the factory, which consisted of pre-war lower level employees promoted to management positions during the occupation or immediately thereafter. He also encountered resistance from the current residents of our apartment—which had been taken over immediately after liberation by a professor from the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy in Kraków. Also, despite the trial and sentencing of Balko, the Volksdeutscher, we failed to recover any of the things pilfered from us. Neither were the city authorities forthcoming with any help in re-establishing our lives.
After the well-known Kielce pogrom, Father decided to return to his wartime name of Królikowski and to move to Silesia. In Katowice he took the position of director of the Association of Zinc Industries and, subsequently, as director of a scrap metal center. After several job changes and a great deal of harassment in the 1950s as a result of his “intelligentsia class origins”), he died in Katowice on November 6, 1953. In Katowice I finished the fourth grade of gymnasium and then a general education lyceum in an accelerated program. I passed the matriculation examination in June 1947. In 1949 in a streamlined process, my parents and I succeeded in legalizing our name change [to Królikowski].
Kielce pogrom – Pogrom in Kielce, 4 July 1946. A building sheltering Jews who had returned from the USSR en route to Palestine is attacked. Someone had spread a rumor of “blood libel”, that is, that Jews had killed a Polish boy to use his blood in the making of matzo. Forty-two Jews are killed. Smaller pogroms occur else where in Poland.
“intelligentsia class origins” – the Polish government favored “workers” and discriminated against the intelligentsia.
From October 1947 to December 1952, I studied at the University of Wrocław, named for Bolesław Bierut, in the Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry Department, from which I received a masters’ degree in physics. However, due to my irregular secondary school education, I was never able to fill the gaps in my education and general knowledge. I was able to compensate for this only by my knowledge of foreign languages. This did not allow me to take up any highly advanced work in my specialty, and later, it caused turmoil in my professional career, in which I alternated between being a teacher and an administrator.
Bolesław Bierut was the first postwar Communist leader of Poland.
On March 28, 1950, I married a university colleague, Halina Antonowicz, born on July 5, 1929, in Białystok, a philo-Semitic gentile. We remain in a happy marriage to this day. Despite her young age, my wife was a partisan during the war and is a veteran of the AK. Of course, the ordeals of that time left their mark on her health, and she is now classified as having a group one disability. We have two daughters, Ewa and Anna, and three grown grandchildren. As a result of the purges of 1968, I was dismissed from the State Office for the Utilization of Nuclear Energy (_) and returned to work in secondary education. In 1956 my mother emigrated to Australia to join her brother, Henryk Haber, who had left immediately after the war and had settled in Sydney together with his wife, Irena, and son, Ryszard. My mother lived and worked there until August 1990, when, seriously ill, she returned to Poland and moved in with us in Warsaw. She died on June 12, 1991.
A group one disability – beneficiaries of disability pensions are classified into three groups and receive pensions according to the severity of their disability and suffering.
…“the purges of 1968” – In 1968 there were student demonstrations in Poland against government censorship. They were crushed by the Communist regime and blamed on “Zionists”. A wave of anti-Zionism and antisemitism followed. Jews were accused of not being loyal to Poland and were often demoted or summarily dismissed from their jobs. At this time about 30,000 Jews who had survived in Poland or returned to Poland after the war emigrated.
State Office for the Utilization of Nuclear Energy – Biuro Pełnomocnika Rządu do Spraw Wykorzystania Energii Jądrowej.
My mother’s brother, his wife, and their son were the only other members of her family who survived the occupation, first, hiding out in Poland, as we did, and later, interned in a camp in Hungary. Father’s younger sister, her husband, and their son, Rittigstein–Rapaczyński, also survived. After her husband’s death and her son’s dismissal from the university in 1968, she emigrated to the United States, where she later died.
During the war, the following members of my closest family perished: Father’s mother—died of a heart attack on September 2, 1939, upon hearing the news of the outbreak of war. Father’s uncle, Eugeniusz Szancer—taken during a roundup in November 1939, died in Auschwitz. Mother’s brother, Dr. Marek Haber—fell in partisan combat. His wife, Maryla, and son, Wilhelm, as well as my mother’s mother, all perished during the liquidation of the Jews in Limanowa.