A Question of Human Values
The Fellowship | August 4, 2020
Each week, we bring you stories of Advocates and Allies of the Jewish people. Many of them have been named Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust. And all of them displayed selfless love for God’s children. The story of Jerzy and Irena Krepec, Righteous Gentiles from Poland, unfolds no differently.
When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they didn’t just threaten the Polish Jewish community. A Christian couple, Jerzy and Irena Krepec, also found themselves pushed from their property by the Germans. The Krepecs began to rent a farm near Warsaw…and there they began to help shelter Jews.
First a few parents and children hid at the farm. By the time of the Warsaw Uprising, more than 20 Jews had found shelter with Jerzy and Irena. The Jews posed as farm workers, both to provide a disguise and to feed the growing number of refugees. The Krepecs also established an underground school for the children they hid.
Jerzy soon rented a second nearby farm. There, he first sheltered his own family, who had been threatened – some members had been killed – by the Nazis. The second farm soon became a hiding spot for Jews, too. And when danger approached one farm, all of the hidden Jews moved to the other.
The Krepecs helped the Polish Underground fight the Nazis, as well. Their son would sneak out at night and secretly steal guns and grenades from nearby German army battalions, hiding the weapons on the farm for Polish partisans to use.
After the war, Jerzy and Irena kept in touch with many of the Jews they saved. But despite offers to help them leave their Polish home, the couple only accepted shipments of oranges from Israel. In 1994, Yad Vashem awarded the couple the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The next year, a widowed Irena accepted the honor at the Israeli consulate in Montreal, where she lived with their son. At the ceremony, Jerzy and Irena’s grandson explained that his father and grandparents didn’t do what they did for recognition, but instead “it was just a question of human values.”