for Black Youth
for Their Race
Need for the
One Man Who Tried to Stop the Holocaust
& Children of Courage
Sendler - She hid the children's
names in glass jars
in her garden.
Victims of the Holocaust · Five
Milion Forgotten ·Survivor Stories and Diaries
Tadeusz [Irek] Borowski
was his code name. But most people knew him as Tadeusz Borowski.
the Polish resistance fighters knew him by his pseudonym, "Irek". As 2nd
Lieutenant in the Polish Home Army, (Armia Krajowa), Irek was responsible
for men with names like: "Szczur", "Ludwik", "Jurek", and "Chawcki". He
took his orders from "Waligora", a.k.a. Major Jan Tarnowski, commander
of "Wola" Region in Warsaw.
From the Underground
Terese Pencak Schwartz
either stolen German uniforms or just plain street clothes, these homemade
soldiers were the Polish Underground -- the resistance fighters of Nazi-occupied
Poland. Fathers, grandfathers and young boys fought side by side with
only red and white armbands for identification. They came together to
defend, as best as they could, their beloved homeland. They fought with
Polish pistols and German "shmyzers", automatic sub-machine guns, which
they either stole or bought from the Nazis. They concealed their precious
cache in cemeteries and hospital grounds.
The city sewers became their staging area, their Headquarters and their
passage ways. The younger ones -- teenagers worked as liaisons, running
through the sewers smuggling supplies and passing cryptic messages and
"One night," says Borowski, "we got the order that our
armbands must be switched before dawn from our left arms to our right
arms." The Germans had infiltrated their ranks. "In the morning we were
instructed to shoot anyone wearing an armband on their left arm."
Through the wet stinking sewers they moved like rats in
sewage that was sometimes chest high. "We would have to dismantle our
weapons," says Borowski, "and carry them along with our ammunition over
our heads so they would not get wet."
In one almost comic military operation, Borowski, who speaks
perfect German, dressed himself in a stolen Tirolean mountaineer's outfit
-- complete with a feathered hat. With the help of three of his men, who
followed discreetly in a "borrowed" German automobile, Borowski befriended
three Nazi police officers. The charlatan then coyly maneuvered the German
officers into a quiet cull-de-sac where his three partners were waiting.
By day Borowski worked within the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto as an engineer
at the Tyton Fabryka at Dzeilna 62. Taking advantage of his freedom to
pass through the well-guarded gates without suspicion, Borowski smuggled
weapons, ammunition and forged documents inside for the Jewish Underground.
He also worked with the Jewish Underground secretly preparing selected
Jewish men and boys for combat.
was the cryptic code-name that became the word for the Polish Council
of Assistance to the Jews (Rada Pomocy Zdom) established with the approval
of several Polish organizations on December 4, 1942. Headquartered in
Warsaw, Zegota had branches in several cities and major villages throughout
Poland. Zegota aided the Jews both inside and outside the ghettos by providing
forged documents, food, lodging, medicine and financial support.
Ireneusz Borowski, Sr. was only one of several thousand Polish resistance
his ability to speak four languages fluently and his cunning talent
for the art of war, he became a hero many times over. For his active
participation in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and for his part in
smuggling arms into the Ghetto, Borowski was awarded the Cross of
Valour and The Cross of Merit with Sword. In 1948, he received the
highest medal of honor to be bestowed on a Polish soldier, the Virtuti
Militari Class V. Even 40 years later, Borowski flew to Warsaw where
he was, again decorated with medals, including one inscribed, "To
the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto 1940 - 1943."
was also humanitarian. There is a Jewish woman alive today in a coastal
town in California because she was rescued by "Irek" when she was five
years old. He placed the young Jewish girl with a Polish Catholic family
who also had a young daughter. Each month he sent money to the family
for her support. The two girls lived and played together as sisters until
the Catholic girl, Basha, was killed during a Soviet air attack in June
1942. Basha's parents gave the Jewish girl their daughter's identity.
This new name and paperwork enabled the new "Basha" to elude the Nazis.
Pursued by the Soviet Political Police, (NKVD), even after
the war, Borowski left Poland in 1950. He emigrated to the United States
with his wife, Helena, who had worked as a double agent in a German submarine
base for the Polish Intelligence. They raised three children while Mr.
Borowski worked as a design engineer for Lockheed.
He was always unabashedly proud of his wartime accomplishments, but his feelings of
pride were clouded by criticism of occupied Poland and the Polish people
during the Holocaust.
risked my life to save lives," said Borowski, in a proper Eastern European
accent. "I'm not looking for glory. I just want people to know the truth
[about] what happened." ©
2007 - 2012 Terese Pencak Schwartz
The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944
By Richard C. Lukas, Norman Davies "This
is one of the best overviews of the German occupation of Poland. This
book explains how it felt to live under the Nazis. The underground press,
underground schools, boycotts, posters, attacks on SS officers, plays
and movies, cafe life: these details paint a priceless picture."
Steven Lee Wiggins
Award-winning book. Extensive documentation. Excellent
source for students. Gives much more understanding of the complicated
issues of this volatile time than available in the media.
in Poland: a Documentory History
Iwo Pogonowski, Richard Pipes