Michał Rapta

Rabka Zdrój


It all began in 2005, when I was preparing a presentation for my history class about a School of German Security Police SiPo Commanders that had its headquarters in Rabka’s “Tereska” mansion between 1940 and 1945. Along with my classroom friend Wojciech Tupta and under the supervision of our history teacher Grzegorz Moskal, we quickly realized that finding sources on this topic will be difficult. Initially we would only find short notes about the school’s activity, which convinced us of the need to look for eyewitness testimonies of those events. In the course of our research, we encountered a few people who were either civil employees at the school or witnessed tragic events that would happen there. We were becoming more and more involved in our presentation’s topic and kept gathering more and more sources. We were able to get in touch with Mr. Władysław Jaszczyszyn, President of Polish Society of War Veterans and Former Political Prisoners in Rabka, who was interested in our research. With his assistance, we gained access to memoirs and letters written by Tereska’s former prisoners from the Society’s archives. Mr.Jaszczyszyn suggested we submit our presentation into the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation’s youth edition of “Help Us Keep the Memory Alive” contest. We started working on tweaking our entry and ultimately entitled it “Occupation-era Secrets of Tereska Mansion” and ended up receiving an honorable mention, which encouraged us to delve deeper into the subjext matter.

On June 16, 2006 we published a book called “Dark Secrets of Tereska Mansion” that presented events connected with the World War II era German crimes of genocide on Poles and Jews.

The SD and SiPo Commanders School in Rabka was one of the elements of the Nazi genocide machinery. Our book, which we published with donors’ support – met with great interest of Rabka residents, which encouraged us to continue our research and supplement the book with other elements of occupation-era history of our town. Mrs.Ewa and Anna Janowska, two eyewitnesses of the tragic events that unfolded in Rabka during World War II, attended our book presentation and told us about their family’s wartime fate. Their testimonies and the documents we were provided with led us to write “Maimed Tree”, another chapter of the book that candidly presents the fate of the local Jewish community under Nazi occupation.

Through Ms.Anna Janowska, we were able to contact Mr.Jan Jagielski, Head of the Documentation Department at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Mr.Jagielski granted us access to resources from the Institute’s archive. Eyewitness testimonies we discovered there allowed us to complement our publication with new information and events as well as to correct some inaccuracies. In the course of our stay to Warsaw, we also met with Ms.Janowska’s cousin, Mr.Aleksander Ziemny, who added new information and shared with us additional sources.

On November 26, 2006, we presented our book during a meeting of Children of the Holocaust Association in Krakow. There, we were introduced to Maria and Eustachy Kruczała from Tarnów, whose life stories are connected to the events we wrote about.

This meeting provided us with even more important information. A turning point in our research was our conversation with prof. dr hab. Med. Aleksander Skotnicki, who had read the book and decided to put us in touch with a first-hand witness of the Holocaust in Rabka. We received contact information to Mr.Marek Goldfinger, who currently lives in England. He went over our publication and helped identify inaccuracies, presented his own testimony and documents from his private archives that included photographs as well as materials pertaining to SS-Untersturmführer Wilhelm Rosenbaum. We also learned that Mr.Goldfinger’s sister Łucja worked in Margrabianka mansion seized by Rosenbaum during the occupation. The new materials not only shed light on some of our doubts, but also enrich the book and make it more interesting. The second edition offered a more thorough look at events that unfolded in Rabka and the surrounding area in the course of the Nazi occupation.

The revised book was published on March 8, 2008 thanks to the commitment and support of engineer Maciej Kopytek, Chairman of the Board at Rabka Region Development Foundation and the financial assistance offered by the Foundation. With the book began our adventure with Rabka’s history. Since May 19, 2008, Grzegorz Moskal and I have been running a website with a collection of articles presenting our research findings.

Many history buffs and scholars from the region have contributed to the site’s creation – some are authors of the articles posted, others collected the archival postcards and photographs. The history of the local Jewish community is inextricably linked to history of Rabka; initially, we only knew the final chapter of this history. Nowadays we are working to recover the previous chapters of this past.

I hold an technical degree in mechatronics from AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow. I devote a lot of my time to computer graphics and programming. I work in commerce. However, most of my free time is spent on studying Rabka’s history and writing about it online at www.historiarabki.blogspot.com as well as in books and articles. I sometimes participate in various initiatives and events, among them the ceremony of unearthing the synagogue stairs in Rabka, “Towards Reconciliation” meeting or walking tours organized on the anniversary of deportation of Rabka’s Jews to Bełżec extermination camp.

The knowledge I gain teaches me to understand, expands my political horizons and encourages reflections over my personal choices. I think that what I do makes an impact on the people who participate in the events I organize and who read about my research.


Michał Rapta

Rabka Zdrój

contact information: michal.rapta@liderzydialogu.pl historiarabki@gmail.com