Debica, Poland… 1942 – Aleksander Mikolajkow, a physician, his wife, Leokadia, a hygienist, and their two sons, Andrzej and Leszek, lived in Debica, Poland. At the outbreak of World War II, Debica had a population of about 2,500 Jews. Jews represented approximately thirty percent of the population. The Germans occupied Debica on September 8, 1939, and immediately began to terrorize the Jews. Throughout the war, Aleksander and Leokadia were engaged in underground activity. When the Germans began to persecute the Jews of Debica, Aleksander decided that he and his family had to help their fellow Jews in any way possible. After the war broke out, Aleksander hired Efraim Reich, a young Jewish man, to work in the clinic. The Mikolajkow family became friends with the Reich family.
In 1941, Jews were forced into the ghetto. In early 1942, the Germans sealed the ghetto, making it very difficult for Jews to leave the ghetto without permission. When the Debica ghetto was established, Andrzej and Leszek smuggled food and medication to the Reich family. In the spring of 1942, when Aleksander Mikolajkow learned there would be an aktion against the Debica ghetto, he decided he had to do something to save the Reich family.
The Mikolajkow family, working with Efraim, managed to get Efraim’s parents, Chaskel and Roza, Efraim’s brother, Samuel, his two sisters, Rachel and Hanna, Hanna’s husband, Ruven Wolf, aunt and uncle and their two daughters out of the Debica ghetto, for a total of eleven family members. The first aktion against the Debica ghetto occurred in July 1942. When things calmed down, the Reich family returned to the ghetto.
In November 1942, when Dr. Mikolajkow learned of a second aktion against the ghetto, they again smuggled the Reich family out of the ghetto. Following the second liquidation of the ghetto, the Reich family returned to the ghetto. The Reich family would not remain in the Debica ghetto for long as Aleksander Mikolajkow learned of another aktion against the ghetto that was to occur before the end of 1942.
After being smuggled out of the ghetto for a third time, members of the Reich family were again brought to the Mikolajkow home where two well concealed hiding places had been built. The Jews were hidden in the attic and in the basement. In addition to the eleven members of the Reich family, the Mikolajkow family also took in two other Jews from the Debica ghetto. It was extremely dangerous for the Mikolajkow family to hide thirteen Jews, as their house was next to Gestapo headquarters.
In addition to hiding 13 Jews, Aleksander and Leokadia helped place Jewish children in Polish orphanages to protect them from aktions and Andrzej and Leszek smuggled food to Jews in the ghetto. The family hid and provided for the thirteen Jews from December of 1942 until Debica was liberated by the Soviet army on August 20, 1944.
Aleksander Mikolajkow was killed on August 20, 1944, the day the Soviet army liberated Debica. Aleksander was caring for a wounded person when he was killed.
All thirteen Jews survived the war. The Reich family left Poland for the United States and Israel. One of Chaskel’s sons went to Israel and had twelve sons. Today there are more than 300 Jews alive as a result of the Mikolajkow family’s courage and heroism.
Aleksander and Leokadia were recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Authority, as Righteous Among the Nations, in 1980, Andrzej and Leszek were recognized in 1989. Leokadia died years ago. Andrzej and Leszek are in their 80s and both live in Warsaw, Poland.