June 17, 2024
Germany and Poland

One of five American citizens who were prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

John Francis Gustowski was born on January 25, 1915 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, USA

My grandfather, Wawrzyniec Gustowski, immigrated to the States with his wife, Helena Krysiak, in 1912. They arrived in Boston on August 9, 1912 on the “Arabica”, which departed from Liverpool. They settled in Hyde Park, a Boston District. Their first daughter, Jadwiga, was born there but unfortunately died a year later. John was born in January 1915. Two years later, in 1917, his sister Władysława was born, then in 1919 Aleksandra, two years after her, in 1921 Henryka and finally in 1923, Helena. In 1925, twins Ludwik and Józef were born. Unfortunately, Ludwik died a few weeks after his birth, and Józef died before he was one year old.

At the age of six, John entered Hyde Park Elementary School. From the beginning of his studies, he showed an aptitude for sciences. In later years he became interested in astronomy. His mother, Helena, fell ill in 1925, soon after giving birth to Ludwik and Józef. The illness caused paralysis of her legs. His father found out about a specialist in Warsaw who could help her, so he decided to return to Poland. In April 1926, he and his family returned to Poland. At the beginning, they lived in the hometown of their parents, Popłat. Wawrzyniec Gustowski built a multi-family house in nearby Płock from his savings in the United States.

In the mid-1930s, they moved to Częstochowa, where they lived on Bociania Street. Here John continued his education to become a teacher. In the meantime, he joined the Astronomy Lovers’ Club. His theoretical works aroused interest of Arthur Eddington, a well-known English astronomer, physicist and mathematician. At the same time, he joined the National Defense League with his sister Władysława and colleague Waldemar Zaborowski. He quickly learned the technique of building a radio receiver working on short waves, as well as the secrets of the Morse code. He used these skills after the outbreak of World War II.

After the Germans entered Częstochowa, Jan did not obey the German order to turn the radio in to the occupation authorities. In the evenings, he listened to the radio from London and transferred the information thus obtained to the underground press. He did not pass by any opportunity to help Jews hide from the occupation authorities. He helped those Jews who were willing to fight the enemy, join partisan units operating in the nearby Janowskie Forests. From the moment the ghetto was established in April 1941, his sister Władysława, who ran a shoe workshop established by their father, Wawrzyniec (who died in July 1939), employed two Jews from the ghetto in her workshop. As a result, they could purchase food and clothing outside the ghetto. Also, many of the factory’s customers provided free food and used clothing for its Jewish employees.

He was assigned to a labor unit as an electrician. He was killed on January 29, 1942. He was one of five American citizens who were prisoners of the Auschwitz camp.

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