The Partisan who Defied his Comrades
In the summer of 1942, the Germans murdered the last Jews living in the towns of Nieswiez and Mir, in the district of Nowogrodek. The very few that managed to flee wandered throughout the countryside, trying to evade the police that stalked the fleeing Jews. The fugitives, who feared the antisemitism of the partisans active in the area, were surprised by their encounter with Jozef Marchwinski, a partisan company commander, who proposed that they enlist in his company. The enlistment of the group of Jews was met with opposition from the partisans in Marchwinski’s company, who received the fugitives with obvious reluctance, even threatening their lives. Marchwinski was accused of excessive love for Jews, but he managed to rebuff the threats against him, safeguarding the Jews that joined his company, including them in operations against the enemy. Marchwinski’s resolve to protect the Jews angered his antisemitic opponents, who began to suspect that he too might be Jewish. At headquarters, it was decided to transfer Marchwinski to a company of Jewish partisans, under the command of Tuvya Bielski, along with the Jews he had taken in. Marchwinski did not remain in Bielski’s company for long, and in recognition of his bravery and talent, he was promoted to the rank of deputy brigade commander. After the war, Marchwinski moved to an area within the new Polish borders, and following his consistent opposition to the antisemitic policies of the Polish authorities in the years 1967-1968, he was forced to leave his homeland and move to Denmark. In 1970, Marchwinski accepted an invitation from his former subordinates and visited Israel, where he was given a hero’s welcome.
On February 13, 1968, Yad Vashem recognized Jozef Marchwinski as Righteous Among the Nations.