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Irena Wallisch Poland

Krakow, Poland… 1941 – As antisemitism in Krakow escalated, Jews became increasingly desperate to hide from the Germans and their Polish collaborators. Mrs. Mandelberger, a Jewish woman, and Irena Wallisch had a chance meeting when Mrs. Wallisch was shopping for a stove. Sometime later, Mrs. Mandelberger went to Mrs. Wallisch’s home and said, “I don’t know any Christians in Krakow, only my hairdresser and you. I saw your eyes and know that you will not reject me.” Although Irena and her husband, Henryk, were sharing their small apartment with a German officer, they immediately took Mrs. Mandelberger and her daughter into their home.

Irena and Henryk hid Mrs. Mandelberger and her daughter in their bedroom. Irena could not leave the apartment because she was afraid that the German would discover the Jews and denounce them. After several weeks, this arrangement became too dangerous so Irena found several other safe places for the Jews to hide. Some of these places required Mrs. Mandelberger and her daughter to pose as non-Jews. In addition to obtaining forged identity papers for them, Irena taught Mrs. Mandelberger and her daughter Catholic prayers. Mrs. Mandelberger became active in providing false papers for other Jews. She was eventually caught and murdered by the Germans. Her daughter survived the war and moved to England.

Irena passed away in August 2005 at the age of 99.