Signed with Three Crosses

The Fellowship  |  January 16, 2019

Portrait image of Karolina Juszczykowska.
Signed with Three Crosses

Karolina Juszczykowska

Life: 1898-1945

A Polish Christian born at the end of the 19th century, Karolina has a story which only survives because of Gestapo records — no one involved survived the Holocaust. But that does nothing to lessen the bravery, selflessness, and tragedy of Karolina’s tale.

In July of 1944, the Nazis raided Karolina’s simple home in Poland and found two Jews hiding in the cellar. The two Jewish fugitives were executed right there, while Karolina was arrested, interrogated, and tortured. Her life story comes from the Nazi records of her questioning:

I never went to school. Until I was 13 years old I lived with my parents, and then went to Germany where I worked for five years for a farmer…then I returned to Dubkow, where I stayed with my sister until 1934. I helped my sister with farm work…Until the outbreak of the war I made a living in road construction. Subsequently I had different jobs, as laundress, maid, etc., and until my arrest I worked in the kitchen…I am single and have a daughter…She is 20 years old. I have no assets and don’t expect to have any in the future. I don’t belong to any political party…I don’t care about politics.

Karolina told the Nazis that six weeks before the raid, she had met the two Jewish young men who asked her to shelter them. Althought she knew that hiding Jews meant she risked her own life, Karolina took them to her home. They slept on the floor and stayed locked inside while she went to work each day.

Being illiterate, the poor woman signed her “confession” with three crosses.

On August 10, Karolina was sent to prison, where she awaited her trial. Two weeks later, the Nazi judicial system condemned her to death. The three judges, while sentencing Karolina to die, admitted that the verdict was pointless: “It therefore seems to the court that the crime of the accused is not so grave as to justify her execution, especially in view of the fact that this sentence will not deter others.” The judges most likely said this because they believed that all of the Jews in the area had already been murdered.

Karolina Juszczykowska was executed on January 9, 1945. The names of the two Jewish men are unknown, as Karolina only knew their first names — Janek and Paul. But for her attempt to save the lives of these two precious souls, Karolina was posthumously named a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem. May the memories of all three be a blessing.