Oral history
History witnesses

Ryszard Witkowski

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Mateusz Szczepaniak
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
12th May 2017
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
Poles Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Ryszard Witkowski was born in Milanówek in 1926 as the son of head of the post office in Milanówek Józef Witkowski, veteran of the Polish-Soviet war, who died in 1928. His mother, Felicja Witkowska, came from Biłgoraj; she had a photography studio in Milanówek. After her husband’s death, she brought up her son and daughter who was 3 years his senior on her own.

He graduated from a primary school in Milanówek and starting 1938 attended the Tomasz Zan State Lower Secondary in Pruszków. He belonged to the 197th Masovian Scout Group. In 1939, after Umiastowski’s radio call (6 September), he and his two-years-older cousin were incorporated into a group of volunteers heading east on bicycles. He bore witness to the German-Soviet friendship parade in Brześć by the Bug River. He returned to Milanówek in October 1939. In November 1941, he was sworn in as a member of the National Military Organisation; after the merged with the Union of Armed Struggle he was a member of the 52th platoon of the Polish Home Army. Together with his mother and sister, he helped three Jews during the war: Józef Grotte (originally Józef Roman) and the Miodowski brothers. Owing to their efforts, he was awarded the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Recording circumstances description

The interview was recorded as part of the project “Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History” implemented by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Recording summary

  1. Information on the interviewee’s family; 00:00:20
  2. School education and scouting; 00:03:20
  3. The small Jewish community in Milanówek; 00:07:31
  4. Start of the war; call on the radio on 6 September 1939; journey to the east; 00:10:53
  5. Meeting with the Soviet troops; German-Soviet friendship parade; 00:14:14
  6. Return to Milanówek; 00:15:32
  7. Life under occupation; helping her mother; 00:18:01
  8. Education under occupation; 00:23:00
  9. First contact with underground activities; swearing-in as a member of the National Military Organisation; training; merger with the Union of Armed Struggle; 00:25:20
  10. Activity in the Polish Home Army; 00:33:48
  11. Help provided to fugitives from the Warsaw Uprising; 00:38:35
  12. The mother’s encounter with a Jewish escapee from the Pawiak prison; getting the interviewee’s mother and sister out from the Pawiak prison; help provided to the escapee (Józef Grotte) in the scope of obtaining documents; 00:41:17
  13. Assistance provided to the Miodowski brothers; 00:49:15
  14. Ways of helping Jews by the interviewee’s family and friends; 00:51:07
  15. Post-war fortunes of the rescued Jews; request addressed to Yad Vashem; 00:57:10
  16. Background of the rescued Jews and their war-time fortunes; 00:59:35
  17. Anti-Semitic sentiments in Poland and emigration of Józef Grotte; 01:05:18
  18. Emigration fortunes of the Miodowski brothers; 01:08:16
  19. Contacts with Józef Grotte after the war; 01:09:53
  20. The story behind Józef Grotte’s name; 01:12:08
  21. The photography studio of the interviewee’s mother; the family’s place of residence in Milanówek; 01:14:32
  22. Help provided to fugitives from the Warsaw Uprising; 01:19:14
  23. Conditions for living and hiding Jews in Milanówek during the war; absence of a permanent German military station; 01:23:09
  24. Patriotism of the Jews hidden by the interviewee’s family; 01:26:56
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