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Righteous Among the Nations

By Marcel Drimer

A few weeks ago, I received a call from a man living in Canada who told me that he is a nephew of Zofia Sawinska, a person who saved me and my family during the Holocaust. He has a lot of documents about his family and how they saved the lives of many more Jews. 

I promised to send him some of the documents that I have. The first is a list of people who were hidden and survived thanks to the family of Zofia and her husband, Jan Sawinski*. I sent this list to Yad Vashem in April 1987, asking to award the Sawinskis the title of Righteous Among the Nations, a high expression of gratitude.

Here is the list of those the Sawinskis saved:

     1. Mr. Jakub Drimer

     2. Mrs. Laura Drimer

     3. Mr. Marcel Drimer

     4. Mrs. Irena Drimer (married name Irena Wysoki)

     5. Mr. Abraham Gruber (brother of Laura Drimer)

     6. Tusia Szindler (who married Abraham Gruber after the war) 

     7. Felicja Szindler (married name Lidia Zawadzki)

     8.–10. Mr. Jozef Wajs with his wife and daughter

     11–12. Brother of Mr. Josef Wajs with his son

Yad Vashem replied in February 1990 to Mrs. Paulina Muzyka, a daughter of Zofia Sawinska, stating: “The Special Commission of the Designations of the Righteous decided to confer upon you; your late parents, Jan and Zofia Sawinski; and your brothers, Tadeusz and Edward, its highest expression of gratitude: the title of Righteous Among Nations.” At that time, Paulina was the only living member of the Sawinskis.  

According to Yad Vashem, the criteria to be recognized as Righteous are “an attempt of a non-Jew to save a Jewish life, acknowledging mortal risk and using only humanitarian motives for rescues, this has to be followed by testimonial support.”

I was happy to provide this testimonial support for the people who saved us. 

All the people hiding at the Sawinskis went on to lead successful lives. My parents left Drohobycz and settled in Walbrzych, Lower Silesia, where there were good job opportunities. Father was an accountant at the meat factory, and mother stayed home and took care of the family.

After growing up under terrible conditions, I had to catch up with my education, which because of the Holocaust, was delayed. I graduated from the university as an engineer and was fortunate enough to come to the United States in 1961, where I had a good career working for the US Post Office Department and later for the Army Corps of Engineers. I have a small but loving family.

My sister, Irena, lives in Israel. She is a retired civil engineer and has two children and six wonderful grandchildren. She is active at the Yad Vashem Museum.

Abraham Gruber was instrumental to our survival, speaking on our behalf with the Sawinskis and supplementing our very meager food rations. After the war, he also moved to Walbrzych to be close to us and became a director of a meat processing plant because he was a butcher.

Tusia Szindler and Abraham Gruber married and had a son, Oded, who is a professor of astrophysics at the Technion University in Haifa, Israel.

Felicja Szindler (Lidia Zawadzki), Tusia’s daughter, was a professor of art at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and an internationally known pottery sculptor. 

A few years ago, during a Yom Hashoah commemoration, a group of Polish Righteous was invited by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to meet the survivors who volunteer at the Museum. Several survivors, among them myself, gave them photos of our children and grandchildren. These photos were made into albums signed, “You saved not only us but our future generations for which we thank you.”

It is said “he who saves one life, saves the world.” The Sawinskis did that. 

* Polish surnames can take masculine and feminine forms.

© 2020, Marcel Drimer. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.