22 April 1943. Good Friday. Late afternoon. Near the gate of the forced labour camp at the HASAG ammunition factory in Skarżysko, the Germans are finishing putting up the gallows. Finally one of them announces with satisfaction: „Done. The spectators can be invited to the performance”. The officers move away. After a while, the first and second shift forced labourers crowd the square. Silence rumbles in their ears. Tadeusz Nowak, a local locksmith, a member of the Home Army (AK), who had been tortured for a dozen or so hours before, weakly on his feet, is brought onto the „stage”. His hands are tied with barbed wire at his back, and a sign hangs around his neck: „For helping Jews and delivering letters”. The sentence is read out in German by the deputy head of the camp, Fritz Bartenschlager. In order for everyone to understand the threat of death for even the smallest gesture of helping the Jews, the entire speech is translated. Act II of the public execution: one of the functionaries puts a noose around the neck of a Pole. Tadeusz, so far silent, raises a heroic cry: „Poland is not yet lost!”. Annoyed by the outcry, the German kicks the footstool out from under the convict’s feet. The rope breaks. The Pole falls to the ground. Those gathered hold their breath. In such situations, the convict is released. Yes. But not in the „plays” directed by the Germans. Kurt Krause, the camp supervisor, approaches the lying man. Two shots are fired. Krause victoriously sweeps his eyes over the horrified audience. – Now hang this rag and let it hang as a warning! Let it hang here over Easter,” laughs Krause.
Tadeusz Nowak was less than 35 years old at the time of his death. He was caught red-handed handing over letters to Jewish women who were imprisoned there. On that occasion, the addressees of the correspondence were also shot: ten women. Nowak was not dealt with so quickly. Before he was hanged, he was kept in custody for a few days, and before the execution itself, he was subjected to several hours of interrogation combined with cruel torture. The man was a member of the Home Army and smuggled food and correspondence into the camp whenever possible.
On 28 March 1990, the Yad Vashem Institute honoured Tadeusz Nowak with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
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