Pole to be honoured for sheltering Jews from Gestapo

Peggy Curran

The Gazette, August 5, 2003
A 1994 photo of Tadeusz Krepec in Montreal.

As a teenager in Nazi-occupied Poland, Tadeusz Krepec would sneak out at night to steal guns and grenades from a German Panzer division stationed nearby, then bury them for use by the Polish Underground.

By day, he had another hazardous mission - pitching in on the family farm, where his parents sheltered dozens of Jews for the last years of the Second World War.
Tomorrow, four years after his death, the former Concordia University engineering professor will be honoured for his role harbouring Jewish refugees on the run from the Gestapo.

Like his parents and two sisters before him, Krepec joins the ranks of Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and thousands of lesser known heroes of the Holocaust, righteous gentiles who risked their lives to do the right thing.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority, based in Jerusalem, will bestow Krepec with the title of Righteous Among the Nations during a ceremony at the Israeli consulate in Montreal.

"My father never sought recognition or compensation for what he did," said Krepec's oldest son, André, who will attend with his widowed mother, Halina, his three brothers and sister and their families. "For him, it was just a question of human values, a basic thing of our civilization - what we have to do if our society is going to survive."

Indeed, Krepec insisted his family had many silent partners, neighbours who turned a blind eye to the succession of improbable farmhands, often city people who spoke Polish with an accent.

The Krepecs had moved to the rented farm near Warsaw after German soldiers forced them from their home. "In 1942, some strangers started coming to our house," Tadeusz Krepec said when his 88-year-old mother and late father were honoured in 1994. "We were told some of them were Jews and we should not tell anybody about their presence."

Visitors - after the Warsaw uprising, more than 20 refugees found sanctuary on the farm - were put to work, tilling the fields and milking cows. Children attended classes at an underground school that moved from house to house. If word spread the Gestapo was coming, the Jews would be taken to a nearby farmhouse to wait until the coast was clear. If there was no advance warning, they stayed in the fields and prayed no one asked questions.

After the war, the Krepecs kept in touch with some of the people who had stayed with them during the war. There were shipments of oranges from Israel, an offer of help to immigrate to the United States.

Tadeusz Krepec studied at the Warsaw Polytechnic and came to Montreal in 1973, where he worked as a project engineer at Bendix and Pratt & Whitney. He joined the engineering faculty at Concordia in 1973, where he helped students convert cars and trucks to run on methanol, natural gas and electricity.

Krepec applied to Yad Vashem on his parents' behalf in 1993. The file was approved immediately: News of their good deeds had preceded them.

Yesterday, an official at the Montreal consulate said Yad Vashem initially honoured only the Krepec parents for the sake of expediency. However, survivors had pleaded on behalf of all the family members. Tadeusz Krepec was recognized on the strength of testimony from witnesses and his sisters, who cited the risky role he played in transporting Jews between the farm and various hiding places.


Copyright : Montreal Gazette