The Game of His Life
The Fellowship | April 25, 2018
Life: November 18, 1897 – October 14, 1944
Tadeusz Gebethner grew up in a Gentile family that was well-known in his home country of Poland. Tadeusz’s grandfather had founded one of the country’s largest publishing houses. But Tadeusz was less interested in the family business and more interested in a career as an athlete. He was 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. The team was unlike other sports clubs in Poland, in that it allowed Jews and other minorities to take part. Because of this, Polonia was invited to take part in a 1925 tournament by Warsaw’s Jewish team, even playing against a visiting team from Tel Aviv.
But Tadeusz put sports aside when the Nazis attacked Poland in 1939. He volunteered with the Polish army, and after its defeat he was put in a 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. It was also there that he began to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution.
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 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 who was willing to come to his apartment and perform the operation by candlelight.
The next year, the Abrahamer family were betrayed by informers. 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 then made aliyah (immigrated) to the Holy Land.
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 was gravely injured, and lost an arm and a leg. But Tadeusz’s wounds were too serious, and he 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. Tadeusz Gebethner was named 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 had saved their lives – and who had lost his own in the fight against the Nazi regime – nearly four decades before.