Franciszka Żurad with her son Jan - murdered for helping Jews
During World War II, Jan Żurad with his wife Elżbieta (née Rataj), son Stanisław (10) and mother Franciszka lived in the hamlet of Brzezany, which belonged to the village of Wiercany. During the German occupation, a man of Jewish origin called Kurek was hiding in the Żurad family’s barn. It is not known, however, whether this was his surname or his nickname. The record of Stanisław Żurad’s interrogation by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Wrocław, dated 5 October 1984, states that: „He was a man of about 35 years of age, balding, of medium height. (…) He was hiding in this barn, he rarely came out of it. My father provided him with food. (…) He was supposed to come from Kolbuszowa, where he was to own a large restaurant.” At the beginning of 1943, Kurek found employment in the „Społem” shop, located in the home of the Ochał family.
On 6 July 1943 the Germans entered the Zurad family estate and murdered Jan and his mother Franciszka. Elżbieta was then in a psychiatric hospital in Kobierzyn near Krakow. Walenty Sroka, who could have witnessed the entire execution, was also killed that day. „At some point I heard series of shots coming from the direction of my house. (…) When I approached my house from behind a tree, I started to observe what was happening there. I noticed about nine German soldiers. I was spotted. Shots were fired in my direction. However, I managed to escape.” – Stanislaw Żurad says.
Stanislaw warned Kurk, who was working in the shop, of the danger. That was the last time they saw each other: „My friend Józef Siwiec who lives in Zagórzyce told me that he saw Kurek after the war. Whether Kurek is still alive, I do not know.”
The Germans murdered Jan and Franciszka. Franciszka was killed by a series of machine gun shots, while Jan was subjected to numerous tortures, as evidenced by the injuries he sustained. „He was lying in the wheat, with his hands broken and marks from chains on his wrists down to the bare bone. There was blood oozing from the back of his head, as he had received 14 bullets, and his face and forehead resembled some shreds of meat.” – recalls Stanisław, devastated by the sight he saw. What he saw at home confirmed the torture his father had suffered. „A bowl of water mixed with blood that I found in the house testifies to this. In the ceiling of the room where the bowl stood, a nail had been hammered in, from which hung a loop of hemp rope. There was also a broken cane stick and a broken style from a hoe.”
According to Stanisław Żurad and Jan Toton, Elżbieta died in Oświęcim. Nothing is known about her involvement in hiding Kurek. The murdered Jan and Franciszka Żurad and Walenty Sroka were buried on the Żurad property. After the war their bodies were moved to the cemetery in Nockowa.
Some sources say that together with Jan and Franciszka Żurada and Walenty Sroka also Józef Mech, Józef Ochał and Józef Kubik, who lived in Zagórzyce (Ropczycki district), were murdered. Their houses were located near the forest where Jews had been hiding during the occupation. The men were shot. Only by implication, these 3 Poles were accused by the Germans of helping these Jews and then shot. This was in 1943.
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