New York, NY, February 14, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) posthumously honored a Polish Catholic woman who at great personal risk sheltered a group of Jews on her farm during the height of the Nazi occupation of Poland.
In honor of her in recognition of her bravery and selfless acts during the Holocaust, the League honored Francisca Halamajowa with its Courage to Care Award.
Halamajowa and her daughter, Helena, hid 13 of her Jewish neighbors from Sokal in a hayloft of their pigsty and a hole dug under their kitchen floor for more than two years while German troops camped on their farm.
The award, which honors rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era, was presented to Halamajowa's granddaughters, Grace Kucharzyk and Jolanta Steron, during the ADL's National Executive Committee meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.
"After the war, there was still enough fear and hostility that Francisca never told her story about how she had cared for and saved these Jewish individuals from certain death at the hands of the Nazis," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor who was also hidden by a Polish Catholic woman. "Francisca's granddaughters only learned the truth in full after they had moved to the United States decades later. But the Jewish families that were saved and their descendants knew the truth."
Halamajowa passed away in 1960. A 2009 documentary film, No. 4 Street of Our Lady, which recounted her story, was inspired by a diary kept by Moshe Maltz, one of those saved by Francisca and her daughter.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the town of Sokal, then in Poland, had a Jewish population of 6,000. That number started steadily diminishing as Germans, with the help of Ukrainians, began persecuting the local Jews. During several mass roundups, thousands were deported to extermination camps where they were immediately killed. Just before the Sokal ghetto was liquidated, 13 Jews, including three men, five women and five children, fled the ghetto.
For close to two years, Halamajowa and her daughter hid their Jewish neighbors. Even when local Poles were fleeing from the atrocities being perpetrated by the local Ukrainians, Halamajowa stayed in her home to care for the hidden Jews.
"Without hesitation, Francisca took the families," her granddaughter, Jolanta Steron, said in accepting the award. "In a true act of humanity, she simply felt in her heart that she needed to help, that this must be done."
"It is still hard to imagine how she was able to keep their big secret for so long, and even harder to imagine what these people went through," she added.
Thanks to Halamajowa and her daughter, the Jews they were sheltering were saved when the area was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944. Only 30 of the Jews of Sokal survived the war, and nearly half of them were saved by Halamajowa and her family.
"Francisca was one who had the courage to care," said Mr. Foxman. "She upheld the honor of the human race and the conscience of the world. She lived the Talmudic admonition: 'Save One Life, Save the World.'"
Halamajowa was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1986.
In 1987, ADL created a unique award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era. The ADL Courage to Care Award is a plaque with bas-reliefs depicting the backdrop of the rescuers' exceptional deeds – the Nazis' persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews. The Courage to Care program is sponsored by Eileen Ludwig Greenland.
Past recipients of the ADL Courage to Care Award include: Irene Gut Opdyke, Gilberto Bosques Saldívar, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, Khaled Abdelwahhab, Ernst Leitz II, Mefail and Njazi Bicaku, Hiram Bingham IV, Sir Nicholas Winton, Konstantin Koslovsky, Jan and Miep Gies, Aristides De Sousa Mendes, Jan Karski, Selahattin Ulkumen, Chiune Sugihara, the French town of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, Emilie and Oskar Schindler, The Partisans of Riccione, Italy and Johanna Vos.