More than a decade ago, I decided it was time to repay a longstanding debt to the remarkable woman who had saved my family during the Holocaust, and the best way to do that was to dedicate a film to her.
Thus began the making of “No. 4 Street of Our Family” – a documentary about Franciszka Halamajowa, a Polish Catholic woman, who with the help of her daughter Helena and her son Wilusz, saved 16 Jews during the Holocaust, including eight members of my family. I could never have embarked on this project were it not for the fact that my grandfather Moshe Maltz kept a diary in which he meticulously recorded details of this rescue story.
In 1939, roughly 6,000 Jews lived in Sokal, a small shtetl in Eastern Galicia. Only about 30 of them survived. For close to two years, Franciszka and her daughter hid their Jewish neighbors in their tiny home and cooked and cared for them, right under the noses of German troops camped on her property and of hostile neighbors. Two families were hidden in the hayloft of her pigsty, and one family in a hole dug under her kitchen floor. Franciszka’s son provided her with the means to provide them with food and other necessities.
In the final months of the war, Franciszka also provided shelter to a German soldier who had defected – an act that nearly led to her execution. Considering the number of Jews she rescued, and the amount of time she fed and cared for them, her story is by all accounts extraordinary.
Following the release of the film, the Anti-Defamation League post-humously honored her with its "Courage to Care" award. Both Franciszka and Helena were recognized in 1984 as Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli Holocaust memorial institution, Yad Vashem.
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, you can watch the full version of the film here.
This article was originially published in May 2019.