From Athlete to Righteous Among the Nations

Tadeusz Gebethner

Credit:wikicommons

Tadeusz Gebethner grew up in a Gentile family well-known in his home country of Poland. Tadeusz’s grandfather founded one of the country’s largest publishing houses. Disinterested in the family business, Tadeusz pursued a career as an athlete as the first president of the Polonia Sport Club, and the first captain of its soccer team.

For Polonia, Tadeusz played in more than 150 games. Unlike other sports clubs in Poland, the team allowed Jews and other minorities to take part. Because of this, Polonia earned an invitation to a 1925 tournament held by Warsaw’s Jewish team, even playing against a visiting team from Tel Aviv.

Leaving the Field

But Tadeusz Gebethner put sports aside when the Nazis attacked Poland in 1939. He volunteered with the Polish army, and after its defeat suffered in a Nazi prison camp in Lithuania.

Tadeusz did not stay a prisoner for long, however, as he escaped the camp and made his way to Vilna, where he hid in one of the bookstores owned by his family. There he began to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution.

Saving a Jewish Family

In 1942, a Jewish woman named Ludwika Abrahamer and her 12-year-old daughter Alina survived the Skawina massacre, making their way to Warsaw, homeless and destitute. Even though he had never met them, Tadeusz Gebethner took the two into his home, and hid them. A few weeks later, Ludwika’s husband Solomon also arrived. Tadeusz took Solomon to the Polish Population Registration Office where he helped the Jewish man obtain a false identification card. And when Solomon needed emergency surgery on his eye, Tadeusz found a surgeon  willing to come to his apartment and perform the operation by candlelight.

The next year, informers betrayed the Abrahamer family. The Gestapo arrested them, but Tadeusz paid a large amount of money for their release. He then arranged for them to move to Hungary, where they survived the Holocaust and before making aliyah (immigrated) to the Holy Land.

Fighting the Nazis

After the Abrahamers left, Tadeusz continued his work for the Polish Underground. As a colonel in the Polish army, he fought the Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. During the battle, he lost an arm and a leg. His wounds too serious, Tadeusz died as a Nazi prisoner two months later.

In 1981, Alina Abrahamer, the young girl whose family Tadeusz Gebethner had saved, asked Yad Vashem – Israel’s official Holocaust memorial – to recognize the man who had rescued her. Yad Vashem named Tadeusz Gebethner a Righteous Among the Nations on October 21, 1981, and Alina and Ludwika attended the ceremony and planted a tree in honor of the brave Polish soccer star who saved their lives – and who lost his own in the fight against the Nazi regime – nearly four decades before.

Tags: Advocates and Allies History Holocaust Poland sports

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