The Skowronek Bankers
The Skowronek Bankers in the XIV Century
The Skowronek Bankers in the XV Century
The Skowronek Bankers in the XVI Century
The Skowronek Bankers in the XVII Century
The Skowronek Bankers in the XVIII Century
The Skowronek Bankers in the XIX Century
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Hena Skowronek was the daughter of a banker and she had her own fortune; her husband Hersz Josek was an arms dealer and military industrialist that due to the retreat of the Russians and the German invasion, was left out of business until 1918; during WWI, in Warsaw, she only had to sell one ear ring in order to sustain her whole family and servants during the whole conflict.
Hena Skowronek[1.14] and Hersz Josek Blat (See Hersz Josek Blat)[1.13] were my great grandparents. Her father was Shlomo Schoenberg, a banker that was murdered during a bank heist, in 1915 (see The Skowronek Bank Robbery); her mother was Dinah Estera Schoenberg. She had several brothers who were also bankers, like Józef (see Józef Skowronek).
She married Hersz Josek Blat and they had five children:
Natan (1892-1965); he was captured by the NKVD after my grandfather was arrested by the Soviets in Slonim, survived the war and kept the Nowy Dwór house from falling into communist hands until his death by natural causes, (See Natan Blat.
Khaim (1894-1942); last seen in Slonim by my grandparents, my uncle and my mother. He was captured by the NKVD with at least two of his sons there. By 1942 they were reportedly dead; his sons didn't make the gulag but according to testimonies, Khaim was released but died in Nazi hands. The rest of his family was in Warsaw at the time (Sep 1939); no one survived (See Khaim Gedaliahu Blat).
Rakhel (1896-1942); murdered in Warsaw by the Nazis, along with her family.
Khava (1904-1942); murdered in the Nowy Dwór ghetto by the Nazis along with her family.
Dwojra (Danusia) (1906-1991); my grandmother, who survived the war and died in Buenos Aires due to a brain tumour.
The marriage was customarily arranged as a business matter between the Blat and Skowronek families (See Blat and Skowronek) but nevertheless and according to my grandmother, it was a fairly happy family except for the fact that her parents each year travelled for the opera season and left the kids with other relatives and the house servants, and grandmother somewhat resented that.
After my grandmother married my grandfather, the contact between her and Hena diminished somewhat; the marriage was frowned upon by the family since my grandfather didn't have a personal fortune. He was also a Christian and the family was close to some important rabbis and rebbes, so the marriage was not actually seen as an inherently bad thing, it was considered as "unbecoming" and grandmother went to live away from Warsaw, to Novogródek and then to Slonim. However, according the conversations that my mother had with my grandmother, and to what my grandmother said to myself before her death, the relationship with her parents, Hena and Hersz Josek wasn't really bad, if somewhat more distant than when she was still living together with them.
According to my grandmother, Hena was a socialite who always had new clothes and shoes to try on. However, for breaking-in her new shoes she had her own servants. Indeed, Hena never put on a new pair of shoes but had a maid break them in, and when she travelled, it was done in the old style, with huge cases containing lots of dresses and accessories. At that time, it was proper to change clothes several times a day as people travelled or remained at hotels in places like Karlsbad, which was one of Hena's frequent choices for the summer. She and Hersz Josek lived in style.
Aside from some events that I will describe later, neither my mother nor my uncle remember Hena or Hersz Josek clearly, a sign that they did not travel much to Warsaw with my grandmother, who visited the city relatively often. However, my uncle remembers being at ul. Chlodna 24, which was the last address of Hena and Josek before WWII. Their phone number was 25636.
Hena Skowronek is cited also on the Sirak family tree (See Sirak Family Tree). When I first noticed that I grew interested since it would be great to find lost family members, but upon reviewing the material so published it became evident that it is unfortunately useless in its present form for several reasons, and needs several corrections.
Post-war travel document issued in the UK of my grandmother showing her birth date in 1908. Notice that the name
of my mother, Jolanta is included, as she was still under 18. This document was issued just before they
travelled to Argentina in the steamer Córdoba (See See S.S. Córdoba)
Marriage certificate of my grandparents, from 1929, showing that she was the daughter of Józef and Heleny (Hena) Skowronek.
At the bottom of this page you will find a copy of the marriage contract of Hena and Józef, written in 1891
so it becomes evident that if they had a daughter in 1908, the children born to Hena after 1891 would
have been Józef's sons and daughters. There are no other marriage certificates stating that Hena had another spouse
or children from outside her marriage with Józef Blat, a fact that has been established by authorities already during
the communist regime and later was confirmed during inheritance proceedings.
A 1969 official document from the Nowy Dwór Maz. municipality concerning a property of Danuta (Danusia) Braun,
with the names of her parents on it; again, they are Józef and Heleny, which is Hena in its original Jewish form.
Polish society perceived in the mid thirties that war was looming but almost none in the world, except for a handful of people who really understood what Hitler was up to were warning others. Some, at government or army command levels like Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, some journalists, a few politicians and authors in Germany, before they were suppressed, and in our family, a few persons as well.
Life went on in Warsaw, perhaps in self-denial as the war approached. Many common people believed that the Polish armed forces would be able to stop Nazi Germany in case of an invasion. The size of the Polish army suggested that but as in the case of other armies, its methods and tactics proved later obsolete against the mechanized Wehrmacht.
Even people in high positions believed that Germany could be stopped, but we have indications, according to the flow of money in the family banks, that many among the wealthy and educated already were considering that things might not work quite as expected. However, there was still a belief about the conduct of the Germans in a worst-case scenario. After all, during WWI they behaved pretty well as an occupation army.
The key point was that most people did not understand that the mentality in Germany had changed.
Hena lived for the rest of her life with her husband Józef in what was before the war a pretty nice part of the city of Warsaw, not far away from the home of Khaim - one of their sons - and not far away from Khaim's company building, which was right aside another important building for the family, located at ul. Ceglana 10.
Hersz Josek retired from business in 1938 as he was a senior citizen by then and his son Natan was left in charge of the family affairs. Khaim ran his office furniture factory. The family were busy sending the money of their clients abroad, and slowly but inevitably, the markets began realising that something really bad was about to happen.
This led to a series of financial crises that shattered the banking industry. Some clients even took advantage of the situation and refused to pay back loans - there are records, for example, of legal proceedings started by the Dom Bankowy Skowronek in 1938 against one of such customers who essentially did that.
Nevertheless, things went on normally at the Chlodna apartment as well as at Ceglana 10. This latter building, as well as the apartment at ul. Marszalkowska 101 were focal points for the frequent reunions of the clan, and as late as 1938, a cousin from the Alter family in such a reunion implored everybody to get out of Poland. He was connected to people in Germany and knew something that others didn't (See A Message From Israel).
My grandmother was there, and her cousin told her too to get out. He did that and survived. But no one suspected that by 1945, the Chlodna building would left in skeletal ruins with its whole innards burned and had to be demolished, the Ceglana 10 building had been flattened, and that even some of those living at Marszalkowska 101 were shot right on their doorstep - by the way, the corner of Marszalkowska 101 was a place where the Nazis performed several executions over their time in Warsaw, possibly to intimidate civilians. For example, once they opened the sewers and drowned a Polish kid there.
The last time my great grandmother was seen alive by those that survived the war was in the winter of 1940. My mother, witnessed then a conversation as my great grand parents offered my grandmother to take some gold with her before it was stolen by the Nazis, on their last visit to their ul. Chlodna 24 apartment.
The Nazis did not generally kill rich people as quickly as the rest. First they made sure to steal everything they had, in every country they conquered. Only after most of Europe was in their hands for a while, they began gassing, stabbing and shooting their wealthy victims.
All in all, aside from genocide the Holocaust was the biggest robbery in history. The Nazis were in for the gold, not Germany, the white race or anything like that. So, impersonating heirs of those assassinated tragically would be, in my view, something tantamount to collaboration with the Nazi regime due to the similarity in the goals of the perpetrators, with full knowledge of the nature of the crime.
It means that an impersonator, independently of success or failure of the criminal plot and no matter whether a palace or the most modest of houses were at stake, agrees with the Nazis on what they did in order to gain an undue advantage in the present by benefiting from Nazi murders.
In any case, if I had to file a court case for anything like this, I would do so in the terms that I just described. War crimes and hence any collateral actions emerging from them have no statute of limitations, being crimes against humanity. It was enough to have cronies kill so many people; the world doesn't need parasites that feast on the dead even now.
On that day when my grandmother visited them for the last time, both Hena and Józef took out vases of crystal filled with coins and jewels. The apartment was full of people and my mother was left on the side of a table while the adults talked.
According to her, she did not understand much of what was going on, but the last thing my mother said to remember from her grandmother Hena were the words "... ile chcesz, jest wiecej..." ([Take] what you want, there is more) while she grabbed fistfuls of golden stuff from the vases and tried to gave the valuables to Danusia, as Józef took yet more jars with gold out of somewhere. In the end, almost a dozen jars were on top of that table.
My uncle never, ever said anything about that day except that he was indeed there too, and he admitted that fact only a couple of years ago. He almost never talks about the war. On the other side, my mother always insisted on how vivid is for her the memory of the sound of those gold coins falling back into the jars. She always says that it feels like it happened yesterday.
By the way: No one knows what happened to the other ear ring.
The marriage contract between my great grandparents Hersz Josek Blat and Hena Skowronek, from 1892.
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