Personal networks in conditions of extreme violence

ID: 202
Pre-war interethnic social networks were key to the Jews hiding from the Nazis on the "Aryan" side of the city. It was important to recognize who of their pre-war acquaintances could be relied on and who, on the contrary, should have been avoided.

The story is a part of the theme Reactions of Lvivians to Holocaust, which was prepared within the program The Complicated Pages of Common History: Telling About World War II in Lviv.

Pre-war interethnic social networks were key to the Jews hiding from the Nazis on the "Aryan" side of the city. Any contact with non-Jewish acquaintances — friends, colleagues, neighbours, former subordinates or classmates — was always risky, as it could result in both help and denunciation. Mostly assimilated Jews, who had a wider network of interethnic contacts, knew Polish, Ukrainian or German as well as Christian religious traditions, dared to flee from the ghetto and to live with forged documents. Sometimes the lack of language or cultural knowledge was masked by feigned deaf-and-dumbness.

In addition to material support and false documents, the appearance was important. The so-called "Aryan" features (fair hair and eyes) allowed one to move around the city more freely and even to work, pretending to be a Pole or a Ukrainian. The outskirts of Lviv or remote towns and villages were often chosen as a place to hide in order to avoid the risk of being recognized.

Family ties and friendships became an important resource of help. Mixed families were forcibly separated, but there were isolated cases in which a non-Jewish partner managed to save his or her spouse and their children. Miroslav Kravchuk, an opera singer, hid his ex-wife Celina, their son Ihor and mother-in-law Fryderyka Żupnik in rented apartments in different districts of Lviv. He spent six months in a Gestapo prison on suspicion of aiding Jews. Karol Kuryluk, an underground activist of the Home Army, hid his classmates Józef and Marian Frauenglas, their mother, and Miriam Kohany, who later became his wife, in his apartment on ul. Miączyskiego (now vul. Parfanovychiv). Jews often turned to their pre-war co-workers and subordinates for help. Zofia Tyran, who worked as a servant in Henryka Trauber's house, helped her former employer, until the latter managed to get "Aryan” documents. Julia Jurek, who worked as a nanny for the Kohen family, hid Yitzhak, Róża and their daughter Scharlotta in Lviv during the Nazi occupation. However, they did not manage to rescue Samuel, the elder son of the Kohens.

At the same time, the war aggravated and radicalized existing personal, interethnic and social conflicts. According to researchers, a significant factor was the "closeness" between local perpetrators and their victims, who were often linked by long-term pre-war social contacts. Leszek Allerhand, whose father was brutally beaten during the Lviv pogrom in June 1941, recalled that they were "most frightened by the hatred and cruelty of those who had previously politely greeted [them] and smiled." The tensions of pre-war interethnic relations, fueled by Nazi propaganda, also had their negative impact on what was going on.

The story of pre-war classmates, Alina Maciejak and Aleksandra Zając, is quite illustrative. In 1947, Aleksandra testified in court against Alina on charges of blackmail and cooperation with the Nazis. Aleksandra mentioned their chance meeting on ul. Akademicka (now prosp. Shevchenka) during the war, when she was hiding outside the Lviv ghetto. Threatening denunciation, Alina demanded a ransom from her. Aleksandra had to give away all the valuables she had with her (money, a watch, earrings, a silver pendant, a ring and a fur muff). According to her, Maciejak was an anti-Semite who constantly blackmailed Jews and exposed them to the Gestapo. Instead, Alina explained her action by a desire to pay "for bullying at school." She claimed that she had not really intended to report her former classmate who gave up all the valuables voluntarily, "being grateful for the silence.”

This story illustrates two main narrative frameworks of anti-Jewish views — anti-Semitism and personal scores. The factor of using the tragic situation of the Jews to obtain material resources remained important. Perhaps the most difficult issue for those persecuted in this situation was the question of trust: it was important to recognize who of their pre-war acquaintances could be relied on and who, on the contrary, should have been avoided.

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1.  Андрій Усач, "(Не)означені маленькі історії”, Historians.in.ua, (accessed on 19.11.2018).
2. "Close-up portrait of Polish rescuer, Jula Jurek — about this photograph”, USHMM Collection, (accessed on 19.11.2018).
3. Joanna Król, "Historia Pomocy — Kuryluk Karol”, Polscy Sprawiedliwi, (accessed on 19.11.2018).
4. Natalia Aleksiun, "Intimate violence: Jewish testimonies on victims and perpetrators in Eastern Galicia”, Holocaust Studies, 2016, pp. 17-33
5. "Kravchuk, Miroslav”, Yad Vashem Database, (accessed on 19.11.2018).
6. Leszek Allerhand, Maurycy Allerhand, Zapiski z Tamtego Świata, Kraków, 2011.

Anna Chebotariova
Translated by Andriy Masliukh