Warsaw couple pleads guilty to destroying Holocaust relic

WARSAW (JTA) — A Warsaw couple pleaded guilty in local district court to charges of destroying a hideout used by Jews during World War II.

The apartment, which was rented to the couple, is believed to be the only such relic in Warsaw. The hideout was entered into the city’s register of relics and monuments.

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The hideout was located in the building at 4 Kopernik Street in Warsaw. It was built by Leon Jolson, an engineer who during the Holocaust lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. He left daily, however, to work on the Aryan side of the city at which time he built the hideout, which measured about 2 square meters. The entrance to the space was through an old cabinet in the apartment. Jolson hid there with his mother and his wife, Anna, after they escaped from the ghetto.

Leon and Anna Jolson survived the war and settled in the United States. Years later, they mounted a plaque on the building which read: “In this house there is a specially built masked hideout which during the occupation hid Polish Jews hunted by the Nazis – mother, son and daughter-in-law. Survivors commemorate the place for the next generations. Leo and Anna Joselzon aka Jolson.”

In 2002, the apartment was rented by a couple identified an indictment filed late last month as Elzbieta and Dariusz P. A few years later, the couple decided to build a kitchenette in the apartment and dismantled the cabinet and threw it into the trash.

The case came to light in 2012, when the local relics conservator sent his staff to inspect the site to monitor compliance with its special status.

The couple pleaded guilty in Warsaw District Court to charges of destruction of property of special cultural importance. They could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.