Saving Willie

In 1941, the Nazis established the Krakow Ghetto in Poland, a hellish place to keep the city’s Jews until they would be liquidated. The Sterner family decided to flee. They approached a Christian Polish woman named Kazimiera Strzalka, whose mother they knew, and asked her to help shelter them. Kazimiera selflessly moved in with her sister and let the Sterners hide in her own apartment, also providing them with needed food and clothes.

Soon, though, all Jews in the town of Wolbrom where the family hid were found and deported. Willie’s mother and sisters were sent to an extermination camp, while his father and brothers were sent back to the Krakow Ghetto. All of them would be murdered by the Nazis.

The Nazis also executed any Poles who helped Jewish people, placing Kazimiera in grave danger. Despite this, the young woman continued to hide young Willie. Having lost his family, however, the young boy also lost the will to live. He gave himself up to the Nazis, who sent him to a forced labor camp.

While Willie had given up, Kazimiera did not. She went to the camp and bribed the guards into letting her sneak the boy clothes, shoes, and food. She arranged for Willie to be transferred to a better camp, where she continued to visit him, ultimately bringing him false identity papers.

The darkness and evil of the Holocaust led to so many people simply giving up. But thanks to Christian friends such as Kazimiera Strzalka, those like Willie Sterner survived to tell their stories (as seen in the above video), so that generations to come would not forget.

Kazimiera Strzalka was not forgotten for her selfless actions, as she was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1999.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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