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Helen and Sol Krawitz Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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BORN: MARCH 28, 1925


Maria was born to Roman Catholic parents in the industrial town of Piotrkow Trybunalski in central Poland. Her father and mother were school teachers. Maria attended grade school and secondary school in Piotrkow. She and her older sister, Danuta, became friends with two Jewish girls, Sabina and Helena Szwarc. Although their houses were more than a mile apart, the girls often played together.

Maria Justyna, Polish resistance fighter
Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Encyclopedia,”MARIA JUSTYNA”, www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/idcard.php?ModuleId=10006735

1933-39: The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and occupied Piotrkow four days later. Most schooling for Poles was banned so, at 14, I had to stop attending secondary school. That October, our good friends, Sabina and Helena, were among those forced to move into the ghetto the Germans established for the Jews in Piotrkow. Only a few weeks after Piotrkow was occupied, I joined the resistance movement.

1940-44: I was a courier for the Polish Home Army, guiding saboteurs who parachuted in from England. I also delivered weapons, explosives and underground newspapers. When the Germans liquidated the Piotrkow ghetto in 1942, Mother hid Sabina and Helena in our house until they could sneak out with false IDs. During the Warsaw uprising in 1944 I was caught smuggling two resistance leaders out of Warsaw. The men were shot on the spot. I was sent off to a concentration camp, but on the way I escaped from the train.

After the war, Maria reunited with her family in Piotrkow Trybunalski. In 1963 she obtained a medical degree, and became a general practioner.

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