“After more than ten years I am finally finished with my search”
Jean Klerykowski, whose father was imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp during the Second World War, visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) in early September 2011 to present his second book “Après les camps… Le calvaire continue” (After the camps… Calvary continues) and to thank the ITS-based French Liaison Mission for the help it had given him in the past four years. “I never could have imagined the vast amount of documents held by the ITS,” says the 72-year-old after a guided tour of the archive. “I’ve had time to do research since my retirement. And my motivation to learn my true history has continued to grow ever more.”
Jean’s father, Tadeusz Klerykowski, who was from Poznan, Poland, was arrested as a resistance fighter by the Nazis in 1941 and convicted of high treason. On 17 January 1943 the Poznan state police transferred him to the Mauthausen concentration camp. He was forced to work in that camp’s labour details at Gusen and Steyr, for instance, in quarries and armaments production. “The documents I had received from the ITS provided me with new, hitherto unknown information on my father’s deportation and his after-war stay in Germany”, reports Klerykowski. “But numerous questions that I definitely wanted to solve have remained open, one of them being: My father was liberated by the US Army on 5 May 1945, and yet I never was fortunate enough to come to see and know him.”
His mother Anna struggled along in Poland with her two children (Basia and Jean, born in 1939 and 1940 respectively) until the arrival of the Red Army. They then went to Chartres, France, where they were able to find shelter with her brother, Leon Rawecki. The impact the Nazi regime and the war with all its aftermath had on her proved so exhausting, though, that Anna died in October 1946. From then on, Jean and Basia were on their own.
Unbeknownst to the children, their father had actually survived, but their uncle refused to give them up. Rawecki had the Chartres police inform the Red Cross that the children were staying with a Polish family in England. He himself had moved and left no forwarding address. “My father believed that we were missing,” Jean knows now. After the war ended, Tadeusz initially lived in the DP camp near Munich, until he was repatriated and later remarried. “My uncle told us children that our father was dead,” recalls Klerykowski.
He was beaten by his uncle, barely fed and forced to live in a garden shed. “I was only able to focus on finding food. I never learned much about living a normal life.” His sister whom their uncle allowed to live in his house was misused by him for many years. Jean only learned the truth about what had actually happened to his father when he left his uncle and began his education. The 17-year-old became a ward of the state in July 1956, and he continued his search. “It was very difficult as letters to Poland took up to two months,” relates Klerykowski. “Two weeks before our planned meeting my father died of a heart attack.”
In honour of his father, Jean Klerykowski wrote a book titled “Pourquoi ça à un enfant?” (Why do this to a child?) and published in 2009. And yet he could not find his peace of mind. “I wanted to bring the truth to light and show how my uncle, helped by then officials, succeeded in kidnapping two innocent children without ever being taken to court for what he did”. He kept probing with queries all institutions and offices he believed to hold the pertinent evidence. And his obstinacy was rewarded: In 2001, the Polish Consulate in Paris ultimately handed him authentic and official documents he could make public in his second book. “As I had made this search for the truth a lifelong commitment, I was firmly decided to bring it to its end, which is what I have finally finished now”, Klerykowski rejoices.