Oral history
History witnesses

Janusz Ostrowski

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Klara Jackl
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
3rd February 2015
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
Poles Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust


Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, ghettos , Warsaw Ghetto, World War II, Remembering the stories of rescue, Ghetto uprising, Polish-Jewish relations, Blackmailers, Jewish identity, Hiding of Jews.

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Janusz Ostrowski was born in Warsaw in 1926. Janusz Ostrowski's father, Aleksander, was a construction engineer and a member of KPP (Communist Party of Poland), and then of PPS (Polish Socialist Party). His mother, Władysława née Lencka was a teacher. Janusz Ostrowski had an older brother, Aleksander, and a sister, Inka (she died as a child). Until the second half of the 1930s, the Ostrowski family lived in the WSM housing estate in Warsaw, then, due to their father's political activity, they moved to Łódź.

In 1939 the Ostrowski family were displaced from Łódź, but after some time they returned to Warsaw. Janusz Ostrowski took up a job in the Fire Brigade. Having considerable freedom of movement as a firefighter, he frequently visited the ghetto. During the uprising in the ghetto, together with the fire brigade, he extinguished fires at the command of the Germans and secretly allowed the Jews rescued from the fire to escape. Together with his brother and father, he also helped Jews hiding in Warsaw and took part in actions against blackmailers.

During the Warsaw Uprising, Janusz Ostrowski and his brother fought in Żoliborz in the IV Battalion of the Jarosław Dąbrowski OW PPS (military units of the Socialist Insurgent Rescue Service) (pseud. “Cyprian”). He was wounded in the leg on the second day of the uprising during an attempt to retrieve arms from German units. His brother (pseud. “Feliks”) and father (pseud. “Franciszek”) died during the uprising. In the autumn of 1944 Janusz Ostrowski went to hospital in Żoliborz, then he was treated in Milanówek.

After the war, he returned to Łódź, and then to Warsaw. He graduated in physics. In the 1960s, he emigrated to the United States via Britain. At the beginning of the 1990s, he returned to Warsaw. He lives in Warsaw in the Żoliborz district.

Recording summary

  1. Childhood, parents, father's publishing cooperative, sister's birth, father's activity in PPS; 00:00:40
  2. Father's help for professor Morgentaler from Łódź and meeting the professor during a guest lecture; 00:03:06
  3. Jewish names, a Jewish classmate from school and skipping religion classes together; 00:06:00
  4. Living in Warsaw before the war, father's participation in the creation of the Warsaw Housing Cooperative; 00:07:59
  5. The outbreak of World War II, displacement from the apartment in Łódź near Zamość; 00:10:27
  6. Father's membership in KPP, joining PPS and moving to Łódź; 00:13:21
  7. Work on a tobacco plantation, digression on cigarette smoking; 00:15:01
  8. Return to Warsaw, escape of the Jews to the USSR, meeting Prof. Ignacy Wald in the USA and his return to Poland, the identity of Jews of Polish origin, finding real parents by children saved by Poles, working in the USA and the decision to return to Poland; 00:17:22
  9. Member of the fire brigade during the occupation, making holes in German car tyres, rescuing Jews from the ghetto by the firefighters; 00:24:38
  10. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, help in hiding Krysia, a Jewish girl, and organizing her meeting with her mother, outsmarting the German patrol, action against blackmailers; 00:29:33
  11. Father’s help to the PPS Jews, contacts with General Rokossowski; 00:39:40
  12. The fire brigade during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, efforts to help Jews during the pacification of the uprising, saving a woman from a burning building and evacuating women from the ghetto, destruction of the supplies of an alcohol storehouse; 00:42:35
  13. Smuggling weapons into the ghetto, meeting with Marek Edelman, amusement park by the ghetto wall; 00:52:38
  14. Smuggling food into the ghetto by children; 00:49:25
  15. The murder of a child by a Latvian, fighting during the ghetto uprising; 01:01:48
  16. The outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, retrieving weapons from Germans and getting wounded during the fight, death of family members during the Uprising, belonging to the 219th platoon of the Polish Army [showing the insurgent band]; 01:09:14
  17. The first fights during the Warsaw Uprising (description of the fights), wounded Germans in captivity during the Uprising, convalescence and transport to Tworki; 01:15:48
  18. Parents' participation in the uprising, father's death, stay in Pruszków and Milanówek; 01:22:00
  19. Return to Łódź after the war, studying physics, marriage, departure for the USA; 01:26:06
  20. Polish-Jewish relations, national identity of Polish Jews, using Polish abroad, Jews in the Warsaw Uprising, personal details of the parents; 01:31:50
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