Albin Tyll was a Polish Christian of German background who worked in the city hall of the Polish town of Kolomyja. In 1940, Tyll befriended a new co-worker, Lola Sandberg, whose Jewish family had fled their home because of the ongoing Holocaust. Lola took the job to support her family, including her aging parents, her sister Mila, and her cousin Jasia. Albin befriended the whole family.
The next year, the Nazis occupied the town and Lola lost her job, leaving the Sandbergs with no income. Albin began to provide for his friends, especially after they were forced into the ghetto in 1942. Albin helped the Sandbergs and other Jews in the ghetto, taking their clothing and household goods and trading them for food, which he brought back for them.
Rumors began to spread that the Nazis were planning to liquidate the ghetto — along with all of the Jews forced to live there. Albin planned on sneaking the Sandberg family into Hungary, but the Nazis acted first. 4,000 Jews — including the Sandbergs — were loaded onto a train to Belzec concentration camp on October 11, 1942, a train that would carry them to their deaths.
As the train made its way to Belzec, Lola, Mila, and Jasia jumped from it and escaped. Lola and Mila’s elderly parents were unable to make the leap, and were carried the rest of the way to their deaths. But the three girls did escape and got in touch with their friend Albin Tyll. He brought them clothing, money, and forged identification paperwork, promising that he would do all he could to protect and care for his friends. “I am going to save you,” Albin told them. “If I am going to perish, I will perish with you.”
Albin moved his friends to the city of Lwow, where he got a job managing property stolen by the Nazis. This allowed him to move the three into a comfortable building, where Lola pretended to be his wife, Mila his cousin, and Jasia the “family’s” maid. Albin also got Mila a job. The four lived safely in Lwow until its liberation in August of 1944.
After the war, the four went their separate ways — Albin to Argentina, Mila and Lola to Canada, and Jasia making aliyah (immigrating) to Israel. But Albin Tyll’s kindness was not forgotten. Mila remembered her family’s rescuer: “He took us under his wings. This is how we survived.” And Yad Vashem remembered Albin Tyll, as well, naming him Righteous Among the Nations in 2011 for the three Jewish lives he so selflessly saved.Tags: Advocates and Allies