The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) on Nov. 27 brought together Holocaust survivor Dr. Leon Gersten with his Holocaust rescuer from Poland, righteous gentile Czeslaw Polziec, for the first time in 69 years to mark an annual tradition for JFR.
For more than two years, the Czeslaw family hid Gersten from the Nazis, along with his mother Frieda and the Wiesenfelds, Frieda’s sister and brother-in-law’s family.
JFR has been arranging such reunions for 20 years, usually on the day before Thanksgiving. JFR Executive Vice President Stanlee Stahl told JNS.org that while “each year is different, each story is unique,” this year’s reunion at New York’s JFK International Airport carried extra significance due to the historic overlap of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah.
“Hanukkah is the festival of light, and in many ways [Czeslaw Polziec’s] Polish Catholic family brought light into the lives of the Gersten and Wiesenfeld families,” Stahl said.
Gersten currently lives in Cedarhurst, NY, and Czeslaw Polziec lives in Mielec, Poland. The Polziec family agreed to hide Gersten and his relatives in their attic during the Holocaust despite having five children of their own. Stanislaw Polziec, Czeslaw’s father, was beaten when the family was suspected of hiding Jews, but did not send away Gersten and his family.