Surviving with a Muslim Identity in Warsaw
Stanisław and Regina Świda
Jews living under false identity during the Holocaust faced enormous challenges. The fact that Jewish males are circumcised and bear the mark of their identity on their body presented an additional difficulty to the few who were able to survive in hiding.
In this respect the story of Avraham Horowitz's survival in Warsaw is unique. He survived thanks to the courage and resourcefulness of Stanisław and Regina Świda, who succeeded in having the child in their care declared as a Muslim.
Avraham Horowitz was born in 1940 to Tatiana and Benjamin Horowitz. His life began in the Warsaw ghetto. In April 1943, when the liquidation of the ghetto began, Benjamin and Tatiana's Polish acquaintances, who were active in the underground, helped them escape to the Aryan side of Warsaw. To ensure their safety the family had to split: Tatiana was able to obtain forged papers - she was now called Irena Waldo - and went to live with a Polish family in the outskirts of Warsaw; Benjamin went into hiding in the city; and their three-year-old son Avraham was moved from one hiding place to the other until a warm home was found for him with Stanisław and Regina Świda. The couple and their children welcomed Avraham into their home. Because the child was circumcised, hiding his Jewish identity was problematic, but Stanisław came up with an audacious plan: to present Avraham as the son of Muslim Tatar friends and thereby explain his circumcision. To this end Stanisław approached the head of the Tatar community in Warsaw, explaining that the child's father – a friend of his - had been murdered, his mother had disappeared, and Avraham had been found on the street with a note with the Świda's address on it. The head of the tatar community accepted the story as true and was prepared to certify that Avraham belonged to his community, but first it was necessary to receive a permit from the Gestapo. With great trepidation Stanisław went to the Gestapo, stating boldly that he was certain that the child was not Jewish. He thus received a certificate stating that "Achmet Kraczkiewicz" (Avraham’s new identity) was a member of the Tatar community.
Avraham lived with "Uncle Stanisław" and "Aunt Regina" until the summer of 1944. Regina was like a mother to him, treating him with warmth and love during a very difficult period. The memory of his mother had faded, and although throughout the time he was with the Świda family, Tatiana would come to see her son, he no longer knew that she was his mother.
Soon after the beginning of the Polish uprising in Warsaw in August 1944, Stanisław and his son Wlodzimierz went missing. Wlodzimierz was killed in a camp and the fate of Stanslaw is unkown until this very day. Despite the tragedy and the loss of her home Regina did not abandon Avraham and took him along on her escape through the ruins of Warsaw. Shortly before liberation, Tatiana collected her son. Because of the ongoing danger, she did not tell him she was his mother and he learned the truth only after the end of the war. They did remain in touch with Regina Swida until Tatiana Horowitz and her son went to Israel in 1950. Avraham's father stayed in Poland.
Regina Świda passed away in 1979.
On August 2, 2011, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem decided to award Stanisław and Regina Świda the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
On March 22nd, 2012 a ceremony was held at Yad Vashem honoring the Swidas, the ceremony was attended by Dr. Avraham Horowitz and Malgorzata-Ana Gronek, granddaughter of the rescuers.