A hero from the time of the German occupation honored in Somianka

Published: 23.06.2023

The Pilecki Institute commemorated in Somianka Mieczysław Żemojtel, who was murdered in the concentration camp at Majdanek for helping Annie and Mariani Kowalski, Jewish siblings, likely escapees from the Warsaw Ghetto. During the ceremony on June 21, Anna Kowalska was also honored, whose resolute attitude likely saved the lives of three Polish women who helped her. This is the 32nd ceremony conducted as part of the „Called by Name” program, dedicated to those who, during the German occupation, lost their lives for helping Jews doomed to extermination. Paweł Esse, the president of the Domus Polonorum association, participated in the event.

Anna’s attitude during the interrogation led to the Germans not having a basis for an immediate execution of the Poles who were helping her. Therefore, they instructed Żemojtel to summon the people working in the building – they assumed they must have known about the hidden Jews. Mieczysław brought Marianna Krawczyk and Marianna Stępkowska to the manor, warning them that Anna, despite the torture, had not said they had helped her. After another interrogation of the whole group, the gendarmes left Somianka, having arrested Rubach and Żemojtel. The German manager of the estate was soon released, while Żemojtel remained in detention in Wyszków.

From there, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Majdanek (KL Lublin). Żemojtel arrived there on March 13, 1943. He survived in the camp for only a few days – he died on March 19. His family learned about his fate two months later.

Testimony of Władysław Staniszewski:

„When I came out in front of the palace, I saw a German gendarme standing on the steps near the entrance, and another gendarme leading a Jewish woman, Ania, on a path leading towards the park. When she walked a few steps away from the gendarme, he pulled out a pistol and shot her in the back of the head, after which the Jewish woman fell to the ground.”

„The proceedings […] of the Düsseldorf Prosecutor’s Office against the suspect Sichau were suspended under § 205 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, because the suspect is unable to participate either in the interrogation or in the trial. He suffers […] from angina pectoris, arterial hypertension, and mild diabetes. According to the opinion of the district doctor in Grevenbroich of September 2, 1975, Prof. Dr. L. Seipel of December 8, 1976, and Dr. Schnelbacher of July 5, 1978, suspect Sichau cannot participate in the interrogation without direct threat to life and health. The stress associated with the interrogation can at any time cause a direct threat of a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, the proceedings should be discontinued.”

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