Oral history
History witnesses

Janusz Durko

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Klara Jackl
Joanna Król
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
27th June 2014
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
Poles Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust


Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, False documents, Warsaw Ghetto, Hideouts, March 1968, Ghetto uprising, Saving Jews, Righteous Among the Nations, Granting the Righteous title, Hiding of Jews, Life before the war.

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Janusz Durko was born on 23 February, 1915, in Warsaw. He graduated from Jan Zamojski Middle School, and in 1934-1938 studied history at the University of Warsaw. The outbreak of the Second World War finds him and his family in Warsaw. His sister, Mirosława, a graduate of the  Law School at the University of Warsaw, and her co-workers (working for a pension insurance institution located at Krakowskie Przedmieście), are evacuated to Lviv.

Janusz Durko stays in Warsaw and begins working for the Social Welfare Committee, and becomes appointed Secretary of the Executive Board of the Warsaw Housing Association located in Żoliborz. Durko works for the Warsaw  Construction Company (Społeczne Przedsiębiorstwo Budowlane – SPB) until the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising. In 1942, he marries Barbara Pikulińska and moves to her flat at ul. Krechowiecka 6/42. Together with his wife he helps a series of Jewish escapees from the Warsaw Ghetto - by hiding them in his flat, helping them find permanent hiding places, and helping them find employment. The outbreak of the Warsaw Rising finds the Interviewee in Żoliborz; together with his wife and Irena, who is their tenant, is interned at Laski, where he remains throughout the rising.

At the end of the war, he is initially employed by the Bureau for the Reconstruction of the Capital (Biuro Odbudowy Stolicy), where he works for six months. He is then offered a post at the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej), at the Central Directorate of State Archives. In the years 1951-2003, he is director of the Historical Museum of Warsaw, and in 1968-1990 is a member of the Museum Council of the Jewish Historical Institute. Janusz Durko has received more than thirty Polish and international distinctions for his contributions to culture. In 1987, Professor Janusz Durko and his wife Janina were honoured with the Righteous Among the Nations title, and in 2010 they received honorary citizenship to the State of Israel.

Recording circumstances description

The conversation was recorded in the flat of the Interviewee in Warsaw.

Recording summary

  1. Life of the Interviewee's father before the First World War and social and educational activity after regaining of independence by Poland; statute of the association “Nasz Dom”; his father's contacts with Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz, 0:00:44
  2. Contrast between the intellectual atmosphere of the Interviewee’s home (and inside the community of his father's friends) and the influence of the nationalists (National Radical Camp, ONR) on the atmosphere present at the University of Warsaw in the first half of the 1930s; antisemitic excesses, 0:10:00
  3. Interviewee’s friendships with Polish Jews (the university period). Canoeing expeditions with Aleksander Węgierko, 0:12:30
  4. Story of the Węgierko family; description of the flat belonging to the Węgierko family at ul. Mokotowska in Warsaw, 0:15:09
  5. Bench Ghetto at the University of Warsaw, 0:18:30
  6. Interviewee’s place of residence before the war (ul. Krasińskiego), 0:21:50
  7. Life of the Interviewee's sister - Mirosława (born in 1910): evacuation to Lviv during the September campaign, deportation to Kazakhstan, working at the embassy in Kuybyshev, route of the Anders's army, 0:24:00
  8. Outbreak of the Second World War; “My youth has ended”, September 1939, 0:29:21
  9. Interviewee's employment during the occupation: Warsaw Mutual Aid Committee (Komitet Samopomocy Społecznej), Executive Board of the Warsaw Housing Association (Stanisław Szwalbe, Szymon Syrkus), 0:31:00
  10. Jewish intelligentsia in Żoliborz - residents of the Warsaw Housing Association, 0:33:00
  11. Interviewee's employment at the Warsaw’s Construction Company; Polish Jews - full-time employees of the above, 0:35:25
  12. Life of the Interviewee's father (prisoner of Majdanek), architectural studio of Szymon Syrkus, fate of Szymon Syrkus and his wife Helena Syrkus, 0:39:40
  13. A request of Mr Marciniak (real name Leon Folwanholf) to permit his cousin, Józef Gronka (real name Jakub Szpiro) to move into the Interviewee’s home (ul. Rakowiecka 6/42), 0:43:15
  14. Obtaining a kennkarte for Jakub Gronka (Jakub Szpiro) by the Interviewee, 0:44:27
  15. Information on Jakub Szpiro and his family, 0:45:13
  16. Feliks Tych – bother of Jakub Szpiro, 0:48:00
  17. Everyday life before the occupation, occupation of Jakub Szpiro - fixing rubber boots; denouncement of Jakub Szpiro by shmaltsovniks at a public bathhouse at ul. Suzina; Jakub Szpiro moves to a new flat at ul. Senatorska, 0:50:30
  18. Moving of a Jewish female who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, Irena Launberg, into the Interviewee’s flat; Irena's five-year-old son, 0:53:00
  19. The Warsaw Ghetto in recollections of the Interviewee: uprising in the Ghetto, a carousel on the Krasiński Square; reactions of the Jewish employees of the Warsaw’s Construction Company to the uprising in the Ghetto, 0:54:50
  20. Execution on 16 October 1942 - Interviewee's brother-in-law (Antoni Dobiszewski), 01:01:40
  21. The tragic fate of Leon Rytowski (Polski Hotel), 01:02:00
  22. Employment of Irena Launberg - making footwear, 01:01:40
  23. Jews residing in the Interviewee’s flat during the occupation: Józef Gronka. Unsuccessful journey of Irena Launberg to Hotel Polski, 01:06:50
  24. Fate of Aleksander Węgierko, 01:11:50
  25. Library of the Institute of Social Economics (Instytut Gospodarstwa Społecznego), 01:17:30
  26. Social specificity of the residents of the Warsaw Housing Association, 01:25:30
  27. Social life of the employees of the Warsaw’s Construction Company during the occupation, 01:30:30
  28. “Deputat” and the outbreak of the Rising in Żoliborz; first days of the Warsaw Rising, 01:33:00
  29. Thoughts of the Interviewee on the meaning of the Warsaw Rising on the contemporary urban and social shape of the capital, criticism of the Warsaw Rising, 01:40:00
  30. The first visit of the Interviewee in Warsaw after the Warsaw Rising - 8 February 1945, 01:45:15
  31. First years of the functioning of the Institute of National Remembrance, 01:51:00
  32. Employment of the Interviewee at the Central Directorate of State Archives; Museum of Labour and Social Development; nomination to director of the Historical Museum of Warsaw, 01:45:00
  33. Thoughts of the Interviewee on working at the Historical Museum of Warsaw: period of the Polish People’s Republic; period of 1945-1947; reflections on the book “Hańba domowa”; meeting Kazimierz Brandys, 02:00:00
  34. Circumstances surrounding granting the Interviewee the Righteous Among the Nations title and the honorary citizenship of the State of Israel, 02:07:40
  35. Thoughts of the Interviewee on the initiative of building the Righteous Among the Nations monuments in Warsaw, 02:19:20
  36. Description of ul. Nalewki before the war; the Jewish poor at the time of the Second Polish Republic (Jewish district in Łuck); description of ul. Wałowa in Warsaw, 02:21:10
  37. Jewish friends of the Interviewee from before the war, 02:26:08
  38. Organisation by the Interviewee of the exhibition “Present among us. Polish Jews in economic, social, scientific and cultural life of Warsaw” at the Historical Museum of Warsaw, 02:30:00
  39. Thoughts of the Interviewee on contemporary Poland (“Continues to be reigned by liberum veto”); historiosophy, 02:36:00
  40. Events of 1986 and antisemitic campaign in the recollections of the Interviewee, 02:46:20
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