Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka massacre

Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka massacre was a Nazi war crime perpetrated by members of the German Gendarmerie (state rural police) in the villages Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka in occupied Poland. On December 6, 1942, thirty-one Poles from the families of Kowalski, Kosior, Obuchiewicz and Skoczylas, among them women and children, were murdered for helping Jews. Also, two Jewish refugees were among the victims. Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka massacre was one of the greatest crimes committed by Nazi-German occupants on Poles who helped Jews.[1]


After the Nazi occupation of Poland began, powiat of Iłża became a part of the Radom district of the General Government. In the spring of 1941 German occupational authorities initiated the process of ghettoization of the local Jewish population.[2] During the "Aktion Reinhard" around 10,000 Jews from ghettos in Bałtów, Ciepielów, Lipsko and Solec nad Wisłą were forcibly resettled to the "transit ghetto" in Tarłów. In October 1942 they were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp.[3]

Hundreds of Jews managed to avoid deportation and hide in the nearby forests. Although German authorities imposed death penalty for sheltering the Jews, relatively many Poles from the surroundings of Ciepielów and Lipsko engaged in the various form of support for the refugees. According to historians Sebastian Piątkowski and Jacek Młynarczyk these phenomena could be explained by the fact that in this region during the pre-war period were no significant economic inequalities and competition among the Poles and Jews, and consequently, no serious ethnic tensions.[4] What was equally important, powiat of Iłża was the stronghold of left-wing, agrarian Polish People's Party "Wyzwolenie" and right-wing, anti-Semitic National Democracy never gained any significant support in this region.[4][5]

Among the Jews who were hiding in the forests were many young men who started to organize a small self-defence groups. Communist Gwardia Ludowa which planned to establish its footholds in the Iłża region but at the same time faced a very little support among the Polish population, perceived those groups as the natural reservoir of manpower. Soon the Polish-Jewish partisan unit, led by the Polish communist Stanisław Olczyk ("Garbaty") and Jewish man Chil Brawerman ("Baca"), was organized.[6] Its actions had no serious military significance, however local Nazi authorities became anxious and decided to organize a wide-range round-up in the forests. The action started in the morning of November 29, 1942 and lasted until the 3 or 6 December. German Gendarmerie (state rural police) liquidated three forest camps and killed around 120 Jewish refugees, and among them also a few ethnic Poles.[7] The Olczyk and Brawerman's unit managed to break out from the encirclement but sustained heavy losses.[8][9]

Most probably German policemen forced some Jews who were caught during the round-up to reveal the names of Polish families who supported them.[10] In consequence, Nazi authorities decided to conduct demonstrative repressive action with aim to intimidate the local population and discouraging Poles from providing any help to the Jews.[11] This task was entrusted to the subunit from 1st Motorized Gendarmerie Battalion which had its post in the folwark in Górki Ciepielowskie.[12]

To some extent Jews and their Polish keepers were aware of the imminent danger. Around December 4, 1942, a Jewish woman came to the out-of-the-way farm of Jan Rusin in Stary Ciepielów and asked the owner to warn the families who helped Jews that Germans may come to arrest them. Some witnesses claimed that shortly before the German action, the Jews who were hiding in the village left their shelters in Polish houses and went to the forest or to one of the neighbouring villages. However, it did not prevent the tragedy.[13]

The massacre

Stary Ciepielów

In the early morning of December 6, 1942, around 20 German gendarmes came to Stary Ciepielów. They went first to the farm of Antoni Sochaj which was located at the outskirts of village and ordered the owner to show them the farms of Adam Kowalski and Piotr Obuchiewicz. When Sochaj complied with their request, they immediately surrounded both farms, and the farm of Władysław Kosior. In Kowalski's farm they caught the owner, his wife and five children, in Obuchiewicz's farm – the owner, his wife and four children, in Kosior's farm – the owner, his wife and six children.[14] Only the teenage son of Kowalski, Jan, who at that time apprenticed the tailoring in the neighbouring village, avoided capture.[15]

Most probably, the gendarmes conducted a thorough search of all three farms. It is unknown what they found in Kowalski's and Obuchiewicz's premises; however, it is certain that in the Kosior's farm they captured two Jewish men and found books written in Yiddish and Hebrew. According to some witnesses, both Jews came to the Kosior's house after it was surrounded by the Germans. It is unlikely that looking from their hideouts in the nearby forest they did not realize that gendarmes are present in the village, so it is possible that they voluntarily surrendered in hope that in this way they would save their benefactors.[16] In the meantime, the gendarmes ordered the sołtys (village head) Jan Mirowski to go to the neighboring Rekówka and bring Stanisław Kosior (a relative of Władysław Kosior from Stary Ciepielów). However, along the way Mirowski met the officer who was in charge of the action.[a] He cancelled the previous order and told Mirowski to return home.[17]

For few hours gendarmes only guarded their detainees and took no other action. They even allowed Adam Kowalski to feed his livestock.[15] Situation changed dramatically in the early afternoon. Around 13.00, the Kosior family along with captured Jews were taken out from their house and rushed to the barn. The gendarmes shot all of them and set the building on fire. One of the Kosior's sons, probably only slightly wounded, managed to get out of the barn. He bypassed the German cordon and ran across the field. The gendarmes who had the car in their disposal, started the pursuit, caught the boy, and threw him (alive or dead) into the burning building. After the execution was finished, they looted the farm.[18]

When looting was finished, the gendarmes joined their colleagues who guarded Kowalski and Obuchiewicz families. The house of the latter was chosen as the place of next execution because it was located in some distance from the neighbouring farmhouses, so there was no risk that fire will spread across the village. Adam Kowalski and his family were taken out from their house and rushed to the Obuchiewicz house. Germans shot both families and set the building on fire. Probably a few injured children were burnt alive.[19] Sixteen-year-old Janina Kowalska managed to get out of the building. However, after run a few meters, she was shot and her dead body was thrown into the fire. When the flames began to fade, the gendarmes returned to their post in Górki Ciepielowskie.[20][21]


At the same time, when first German unit came to Stary Ciepielów, around 10 gendarmes came to neighbouring Rekówka. They were led by the non-commissioned officer named Bierner[22] (he was an Austrian from Vienna).[23] The gendarmes went first to the sołtys of Rekówka and ordered him to show the farm which was inhabited by the two related families: Kosior and Skoczylas. Then they surrounded the farm and detained all Poles who were there. When the Germans came Piotr Skoczylas, his two sons and older daughter were not present in the house. However, the gendarmes captured Piotr's mother-in-law, Marianna Kiścińska, his younger daughter Leokadia and ten-year-old Henryka Kordula – Leokadia's friend from neighbouring farm. Also, Stanisław Kosior, his wife and four of their children were among the detained.[22] Gendarmes searched out the farm and found books which belonged to the Jewish refugees who were supported by the Skoczylas family.[24]

Bierner was going to send a group of his men in search for Piotr Skoczylas and the rest of his children. However, before they left the farm one of the Piotr's sons, Józef, came back from the local dairy. He was beaten, threatened by gun and then taken with two gendarmes as the escort with order to find father and bring him home. In one of the neighbouring farm Józef accidentally met his younger brother Jan. His German escort did not recognize Jan, nevertheless they assumed that he must know Skoczylas family, so they ordered him to go with them and help identify Piotr. When they reached the Tymienica Stara, Józef escaped. However, in the same village gendarmes found and arrested his father.[25]

In the meantime Bierner and his men received the order to immediately execute all detained Poles. Nine people were taken out from the house. Eight-year-old son of the Kosior, Mieczysław, tried to escape, but he was shot on the spot. Other Poles were executed in the barn. According to the witnesses another son of Kosior tried to escape but after he ran around 200 meters he was shot.[26]

Before the execution was finished, two gendarmes came back from Tymienica Stara with Piotr and Jan Skoczylas. Still unaware that Jan is the Piotr's son, they ordered the young man to go away and then took Piotr to the barn and shot him. Before they left, they looted the farm and set fire on the barn.[27]


On December 6, 1942, German gendarmes from the post in Górki Ciepielowskie murdered 33 people in Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka, including 31 Poles and two Jews. Among the victims were twenty minors below the age of 18 years. The youngest victim was 7-month-old, the oldest was around 70-year-old.

The list of the victims, based on the research of Jacek Młynarczyk and Sebastian Piątkowski:

Victims murdered in Stary Ciepielów
Kowalski family Kosior family Obuchiewicz family Others
Adam (47 y/o) Władysław (42 y/o) Piotr (58 y/o) Unidentified Jewish male
Bronisława (40 y/o) Karolina[b] (40 y/o) Helena (35 y/o) Unidentified Jewish male
Janina (16 y/o) Aleksander (18 y/o) Władysław[c] (6 y/o)
Zofia (12 y/o) Tadeusz (16 y/o) Zofia (4 y/o)
Stefan (6 y/o) Władysław (14 y/o) Janina (2 y/o)
Henryk (4 y/o) Mieczysław (12 y/o) Boy of unknown name (7 m/o)
Tadeusz (1 y/o) Irena (10 y/o)
Adam (6 y/o)
Victims murdered in Rekówka
Skoczylas family Kosior family Others
Piotr Stanisław (40 y/o) Henryka Kordula (10 y/o)
Leokadia (12 y/o) Zofia[d] (40 y/o)
Marianna Kiścińska[e] (70 y/o) Jan (10 y/o)
Mieczysław (8 y/o)
Marian (4 y/o)
Teresa (2 y/o)


In the evening of 6 December the interpreter from the Gendarmerie post in Górki Ciepielowskie visited the sołtys of Stary Ciepielów and ordered him to bury the victims of the massacre. According to the German order bodies were not to be buried at the cemetery but in the pits near the victim's farms. The same order received the sołtys of Rekówka.[28]

Jan Kowalski, the only surviving member of the Kowalski family, had to hide for a long time after the massacre.[29]

Stary Ciepielów i Rekówka massacre was the largest, but not the only execution conducted by the Gendarmerie unit from Górki Ciepielowskie during the pacification operation in Ciepielów region. On 7 December the gendarmes raided the village of Świesielice and executed fourteen Poles, among them women and children, who were suspected of aiding the partisans. Next day they came again to the village and murdered a Polish woman named Marianna Skwira who along with her husband was helping the Jewish refugees.[30] Finally, on January 11, 1943, in the village of Zajączków the gendarmes executed six Poles who were suspected of aiding the Jews. Among the victims were: Stanisława Wołowiec, her four daughters, her brother-in-law and her farmhand.[31]

German pacification action shocked the local population[32] and resulted in limiting the attempts to help the Jews.[33] The local people became ever less keen to help the Jews after the Chil Brawerman's group killed three Poles wrongly accused of collaboration with the Germans.[10] As the result, the vast majority of Jews who were hiding in the forests around Ciepielów did not survive the war. In Ciepielów itself the only Jewish survivor was Dawid Sankowicz, who was sheltered by the Polish shoemaker Stanisław Lewandowski until the last day of German occupation.[33]

Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka massacre, along with the following executions in Świesielice and Zajączków, was one of the greatest crimes committed by Nazi-German occupants on Poles who helped Jews.[34] None of the perpetrators were brought to justice.[35]


After the war, the remains of the people murdered during the massacre were exhumed and buried in the mass grave of the victims of German terror, located in Stary Ciepielów (close to the road leading to Tymienica Stara).[36]

The story of the Polish families from Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka murdered for helping Jews was depicted in the Polish docudrama Historia Kowalskich (en. “The Story of the Kowalski Family”) from 2009 (directors: Arkadiusz Gołębiewski, Maciej Pawlicki).[37]

On October 19, 2009, members of the families Kowalski, Kosior, Obuchiewicz and Skoczylas were posthumously awarded by the Polish president Lech Kaczyński with the Order of Polonia Restituta Third Class.

In March 2012 Kowalski family, along with two other Polish families murdered by the Nazi-German occupants for helping the Jews,[f] was commemorated by the commemorative coins issued by the National Bank of Poland.[38]

See also


  1. ^ Name of this officer is unknown. According to the witnesses, he had the rank of lieutenant and was around Thirty-year-old. His fellow gendarmes called him “Karl”. See: Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 92.
  2. ^ In some older sources her name is spelled "Katarzyna".
  3. ^ Some older sources call him with female name "Władysława".
  4. ^ Some older sources claim that her name was "Maria" or "Marianna" and she was 27-year-old.
  5. ^ In some older sources her surname is spelled "Kościńska".
  6. ^ Ulma family from Markowa and Baranek family from Siedliska.


  1. ^ "A Crime in Stary Ciepielów and Rekówka - the Story of the Kowalski, Obuchiewicz, Skoczylas and Kosior Families". POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 29 November 2019. One of the largest executions carried out by the Germans, during the occupation, on Poles for helping Jews, took place on 6th December 1942 in Stary Ciepielów and in Rekówka.
  2. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 40–43.
  3. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 60.
  4. ^ a b Piątkowski (2009), p. 24.
  5. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 112.
  6. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 75–79.
  7. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 79–84.
  8. ^ Krakowski (1984), p.108.
  9. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 83–84.
  10. ^ a b Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 85.
  11. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 86, 94.
  12. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 90–94.
  13. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 85–86, 96.
  14. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 95–96.
  15. ^ a b Bartoszewski, Lewinówna (2007), p. 622.
  16. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 96–97.
  17. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 97–98.
  18. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 98.
  19. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 98–99.
  20. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 99.
  21. ^ Bartoszewski, Lewinówna (2007), p. 623.
  22. ^ a b Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 102.
  23. ^ Datner (1968), p. 90.
  24. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 103.
  25. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 102–104.
  26. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 104.
  27. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 104–105.
  28. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 101, 105–106.
  29. ^ Bartoszewski, Lewinówna (2007), pp. 623–624.
  30. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 106–107.
  31. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 108–110.
  32. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 114.
  33. ^ a b Kucharczak (2007)
  34. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), p. 11.
  35. ^ Młynarczyk, Piątkowski (2007), pp. 114–115.
  36. ^ "Ciepielów – mogiła zbiorowa ofiar terroru". groby.radaopwim.gov.pl. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  37. ^ "Historia Kowalskich". filmpolski.pl. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  38. ^ "NBP upamiętni Polaków ratujących Żydów na nowych monetach okolicznościowych". nbp.pl. Retrieved 2019-11-26.


  • Bartoszewski, Władysław; Lewinówna, Zofia (2007). Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej. Polacy z pomocą Żydom 1939–1945 (in Polish). Warszawa: Świat Książki. ISBN 978-83-247-0715-7.
  • Datner, Szymon (1968). Las sprawiedliwych. Karta z dziejów ratownictwa Żydów w okupowanej Polsce (in Polish). Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.
  • Krakowski, Shmuel (1984). The War of the Doomed: Jewish Armed Resistance in Poland, 1942–1944. New York & London: Holmes & Meier Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8419-0851-2.
  • Kucharczak, Przemysław (2007-12-09). "Życie za Żyda". Gość Niedzielny (in Polish).
  • Młynarczyk, Jacek Andrzej; Piątkowski, Sebastian (2007). Cena poświęcenia. Zbrodnie na Polakach za pomoc udzielaną Żydom w rejonie Ciepielowa (in Polish). Kraków: Instytut Studiów Strategicznych. ISBN 978-83-87832-62-9.
  • Piątkowski, Sebastian (2009). "Zbrodnie żandarmów z posterunku w Lipsku nad Wisłą na Polakach udzielających pomocy Żydom (1942–1943)". In Namysło, Aleksandra (ed.). "Kto w takich czasach Żydów przechowuje?...": Polacy niosący pomoc ludności żydowskiej w okresie okupacji niemieckiej (in Polish). Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. ISBN 978-83-7629-043-0.

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