Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz: Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Postwar England (Lanham, Md. Lexington Books, 2013
Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, Untold Stories of Polish Heroes from World War II (Lanham, Md. Hamilton Books, 2018)
„The stories of Polish Christian survivors of World War II and the Holocaust remain little known outside of Poland and some limited circles in the West. Their victimization at the hands of Nazi Germany has been seen by most western scholars as unimportant or potentially distracting from the central narrative of the essentially Jewish tragedy of the Holocaust. Polish victimization by the Soviets falls completely outside the standard paradigms of Western scholarship. Attempts by Poles or Polish Americans to include Polish survivors in narratives of the war or the Holocaust are often viewed as special pleading or at worst a form of anti-Semitism or Polish nationalism (two things now treated as synonymous). This has retarded both understanding of the Polish experience during the war and efforts to document the experience of survivors.
Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s work has helped the remedy of the deficits in published Polish memoir literature in the West. A prolific author, she has written on numerous subjects but with a special focus on Polish survivors of the war. The two works here under review are an account of the life of Roman Rodziewicz, a Polish soldier and later prisoner if the Nazis and a collection of shorter memoir chapters.
Rodziewicz’s story is an especially compelling one. Raised in the Polish settlement in Manchuria, he served in the Polish Army during the September Campaign. Resisting the imposition of Nazi and Soviet rule, he joined the command of the legendary “Major Hubal (Major Henryk Dobrzanski) who continued to battle occupying forces in the months that followed Poland’s defeat. After Dobrzanski’s death at the hands of the Germans, Rodziewicz joined the Polish underground but was caught by the Gestapo in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He survived both camps, settled in England, and in the postwar years was one of the few surviving veterans of Major Hubal’s partisans in the West.
The collection “Untold Stories of Polish Heroes from World War II” covers the lives of several Poles with diverse experiences during the war, including the late Zbigniew Brzezinski and his father (who were featured in her earlier book “The Roots are Polish”). The sheer diversity of backgrounds of the subjects covered is interesting, though all experienced similar horrors during the war.
These two books are valuable sources for Polish history but also for the history of post-war Polish émigrés.
John Radzilowski, University of Alaska
“The Polish Review”, New York, vol. 65, No.1, 2020, pg. 116-117