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Surviving the Holocaust.

 

Being reunited with his biological parents after the War, he chose the violin over the piano for music lessons and a career was destined. 

The story of Mr. Han-Gorski’s first five years of life is utterly amazing, and steeped in the history of World War II. 

 

He was born to Jewish parents as Arno Haan in Lvov, Poland in 1940, after it was taken over by the Russians in the course of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.  His mother, a concert pianist, was touring the Russian Far East with the Ukrainian Ensemble, and was trapped by the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in June of 1941 (Operation Barbarossa).  She was forced to stay in the Soviet Union until the end of the war, and had no way of knowing the whereabouts of her child and family.  His father, first hiding from the Nazis under the false name “Gorski,” in a desperate attempt to join her, managed to cross the front line to the east just to be put by the Soviets in a Gulag labor camp.  Little Arno spent a short time with his grandparents in the shtettle of Javorov. 

 

When life turned too “hot” there (his grandfather was the first to be taken away by the Germans, never to be seen or heard from again), Arno was transferred to his material grandparents in Krakow.  They in turn were promptly relocated to the Ghetto and were among the first to be sent to the liquidation camp, Belzec, where they perished.  But having the premonition of doom (their last postcard miraculously survived), they decided to leave the child behind and notified their Christian friend to please smuggle him out.  They were already gone when she arrived in the ghetto.  She picked him up from the neighbors, and daringly carried the child as her own into safety.  Back in Lvov, she arranged for a fake birth certificate for him as her son “Adam.”  Through some incredible action, courage and cleverness, she and the man she married in December of ‘42 succeeded in saving him by risking their lives 24/7 for three years (there was a death sentence for harboring a Jew).

 

Adam met his mother again for the first time when, after the Nazis left Lvov, she was able to return from the Far East.  Serendipitously, she ran into his guardian on the street…At the same time a daredevil plot to arrange for his father’s escape from the Gulag succeeded (with the help of a bribed Red Army officer) and the now reunited family along with Adam’s saviors hurriedly emigrated to Poland (1945), which was by now liberated.  After settling in Silesia, Adam started violin lessons in the fall of 1946 and gave his debut by performing solo with the Silesian Philharmonic in March of ’48.  That event was filmed by the national Polish Newsreel and shown nationwide for weeks in movie theaters, making him an instant celebrity at the age of 7.  (You can see this old film on You Tube!)

 

1940 - 1945

Chronological Description of my WWII time.

 

During the few years preceding WWII, my parents lived in Cracow with my maternal grandparents.
 

When the Nazis attacked Poland on September 1st of 1939, my Father and Mother (two months pregnant at the time, decided to run away to the East, to the city of Lvov (Lemberg), where my paternal Grandparents lived in the Shtettle of Javorov (30 KM from Lvov). The harrowing escape with the surrounding bedlam took many days and shortly after they arrived there, the Germans took over Lvov.

 

1939

Knowing what to expect, the family decided to commit suicide, however a friendly Ukrainian, who already knew about Ribbentrop - Molotov pact signed on August 23 told them not to do anything rash. Just a few days later, Russians invaded Poland on September 17, and they were saved for a while. My Father got a job as a worker at the Lvov Opera and my mother - a concert pianist started working with an Ukrainian Ensemble “Trembita”.

I was born as Arno Haan (my Father’s family name) on March 26, 1940 and since they were both working full time, I was being taken care of by Katarzyna Chytra - a housekeeper in the house they lived in.

She took care of me during the first months of my life, since my mother had to go on tour to the Russian Far East. She returned shortly thereafter, but had to leave again for another tour in July.  As the Germans attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Company was stranded in Kazakhstan, where she remained until the Russians entered Lvov again in 1944. My Father had to go to Javorov and had to go to 

the Ghetto. During one of the liquidation actions he run away and hid in a cistern at the local train station. His Christian friend Kazimierz Seko found him there at night and helped him to escape east where he managed to cross the front line to the Russian side. The fact, that he was trying to join his wife working deep in the Soviet Union did not matter and he ended up as a prisoner of the Gulag, accused as a German spy...

In the meantime, I was with my Grandparents in Javorov, but as their situation worsened (my Grandfather was the first to be taken away never to be seen again) my Grandmother had to go into hiding along with her daughter and her son and they survived hidden in a hole dug out by my Father’s two younger brothers in a barn belonging to a friendly farmer. They decided to try to run away to the east, but were also never seen again.

Under those circumstances, they were not able to have a little baby with them and Katarzyna Chytra was asked to take me to my maternal Grandparents in Cracow.

 

1942

Shortly thereafter, they had to move to the Ghetto as well and were among the first to be deported to the liquidation camp of Belzec. Sensing imminent doom, they sent a postcard to Katarzyna imploring her to get the child out mentioning that ‘should they arrive wherever they were going to be sent, alive, they would take me immediately back’ (I have a copy of that card).

Katarzyna Chytra (Nomen-Omen - “Chytra” means “shrewd” in Polish language), the brave woman managed to bribe the guard and smuggle me out of the Ghetto. As I had no family left at that point, she kept me with her and shortly thereafter had me baptized as her illegitimate son, under the name “Adam Chytra”.  At the priest’s question why so late (I was two years old at the time), she made up a story about wanting to wait for her boyfriend to be present at the ceremony, but was just notified he died in the war. 

Lucky again, as a new law requiring that all to be baptized babies must be registered at the Gestapo, came to effect just a week later.

My new name caused once quite a chuckle in a tramway. Asked by a passenger “What’s your name” I answered “Adaś (nickname for Adam) Khitla”. What- gasped the fellow - Adolf Hitler?”

 

1943

In 1943 Katarzyna married Jan Witz, a widower with two grown up daughters. His son was murdered by the Nazis in the famous action to liquidate Lvov’s inteligentia.

Jan was a former Ulan in the Austrian Cavalry during the WW-I and spoke fluent German. Thus I became Adam Witz, and became the substitute for his lost son.

It took an incredible amount of civil courage to marry a woman harboring a Jewish boy, in particular since for them to present me as their son, was rather at the edge of credibility and the surroundings were extremely dangerous and omnipresent.

I can’t help to bring here one incident, that seems like it has taken place in a fantasy novel, but it did happen.

Jan Witz knew a friendly German soldier, who used to visit us and I heard them speaking German. Katarzyna was a seamstress and was helping the budget by sewing some clothes for people. One time, she made a little girl’s dress and put it on me to see how it looked. At that moment the doorbell rung and a uniformed Gestapo man barged in pushing her aside and walked straight into the room I was sitting in a girl’s dress. Seeing the German uniform I greeted him per “Guten Molgen”. From what she told me, he turned dumbfounded to her, asking if I was her child. Yes, she replied and he excused himself and left. She immediately managed to move to a distant part of town. Another time, she moved again after being followed on the street by a nosey neighbor.

Ironically, in spite of the surrounding horror, I was very happy with my “parents” and they remained as such till this day.

The real problems started when I first met my real parents which left a trauma I have been bearing till the present. As a matter of fact, this is one of the main topics of a therapy, which I finally started this year for the first time in my life.

 

1944

 

As the Russians walked into Lvov again in 1944, my mother was able to return to the Ukrainian Ensemble’s home-base. As improbable as it sounds, she run into Katarzyna on the street and this was the first time, she found out I was alive. When Kazia (nickname for Katarzyna) brought her  to our apartment, she was introduced to me as a new “Aunt”. I was quite intrigued by that strange woman and asked Kazia, whether this “Aunt” could stay with us overnight.

Things have changed dramatically, when another incredible event happened, my grandmother succeeded to have found an officer of the Red Army, who managed to have gotten my father out of the Gulag and bring him to Lvov. 

{another remarkable story}

We were told to take the first possibility to emigrate to newly liberated Poland, which happened late summer of 1945.

 

1945

The moment my father appeared in my life had turned into a nightmare. The first shock came, when he got angry when I addressed him as “Uncle”, “I am your father and this is your mother, not an aunt!!!”

I was not only dumbfounded, but also surprised, that my “parents” did not react and deny this to me preposterous claim. But I was still living with the Witz family until we left for Poland. The first stop was Bytom. Witz was the first to get a job as a railroader in Gliwice (Gleiwitz) and I was lucky to stay with them for a short while till my parents got an apartment in Bytom. At that point, I was taken away from the Witz family for good and the emotional trauma never quite left me. 

 

Katarzyna was not an especially religious woman, but Witz would observe the Church services and it was my event of the week to go with my beloved Dad to Church on Sunday and than ride the tramways for hours all over the city.

All of a sudden, there was not only no church, but a rather condescending attitude toward any religion and I was not quite able to make any sense of it.

So now, my name was Adam Górski after the fake papers my father was using after running away from the Ghetto.  

I started playing the violin in 1946 and gave my debut with an orchestra in March of 1948, which was filmed by the National Newsreel and shown countrywide for weeks. Thus the name of “Adaś Górski” became synonymous with the term “Wunderkind”.  Since there was no valid birth-certificate my parents made me a year younger, but I started school directly from the 3rd grade. I was wondering when I’d finally go to school, they most likely did not want me to mingle with other kids at that early age, I was the only Jew in my school. 

Once I started school, I used to attend church services for youth with my other colleagues, until the communist regime put an end to it.

Through noticing different remarks and details, than slowly putting those elements together, I confronted my mother at 10 with the question, whether we were Jews?

Although I personally did not encounter any antisemitic remark in my surroundings, that moment left quite a dramatic effect on me and going through the rest of my HS in a country almost exclusively Catholic as the only Jew was very taxing on my psyche.

 

As we were about to emigrate to Israel in 1957, my parents returned to the old name but since his part of the family spelled it “Haan” while his cousins were “Hahn”, they simplified it to “Han”.  Since I already had 9 years of nationwide activity (represented Poland in an International Competition in Warsaw in 1955), they attached the “Górski and so I became Adam Han-Gorski... altogether I went through seven different names.

The first time I was able to emotionally relax in this respect was, when we emigrated to Israel, but here again, another dilemma ensued.  I began to feel out of place, not having had the slightest idea about Jewish religion and tradition - I felt much more Polish than Jewish. Even after I reached fluency in Hebrew, the lifestyle in the than young country of Israel was so diametrically different from what I knew that I could not help feel out of place. The first time, I was able to emotionally relax and found some equilibrium was in 1962, when I started my studies with Jascha Heifetz in Los Angeles. 

 

 

I realized, that his story goes far beyond the Holocaust years, but the results of being torn from people I was getting used to 5 times within my first five years left indelible effects. Also the reason I had no Jewish friends in my youth and felt inside like a secret stranger was the fact, that my generation had the least of a chance to survive, there were very few Jewish kids left.

I was very happy, when I succeeded in having the couple Jan and Katarzyna Witz, as well as the man who saved my father - Kazimierz Seko recognized as heroes and rewarded posthumously as “Righteous Among the Nations” at the ceremony in the Warsaw’s Senate. This took place last year and I was honored and proud to have been able to take an active part in that ceremony.