The Jews in Zamosc were forced into a neighborhood converted into a ghetto, where persecution increased to the point where soldiers killed some Jews with impunity.
Pawlowski’s father was compelled into labor for the Germans. One day he left for work and never returned, leaving the family heartbroken. The Germans later destroyed the ghetto and put the Jewish residents on a forced march to Izbica, about 14 miles away, putting them in the homes left by other deported Jews.
Soon, the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators launched a mass arrest of Jews. Pawlowski, his mother and his two sisters tried to hide in a cellar, but they were discovered. The boy alone managed to escape. His mother and his sisters were taken to the edge of a mass grave and shot, dying along with about a thousand Jews from their home village.
During the rest of the war Pawlowski moved from place to place. Sometimes people aided him, other times they identified him as a Jew and put his life at risk. He learned the prayers of Catholic Christianity from some Poles, and a Jewish boy gave him a Christian baptismal certificate bearing a new name: Gregor Pawlowski.
Benedictine nuns took him into an orphanage and registered him for school. He quickly advanced through several grades, then moved to another orphanage.
A priest came to prepare the children for First Communion. The boy did not tell the priest he was a Jew, but said he had not been baptized. The priest did not entirely believe him, but baptized him conditionally on June 27, 1945, when he was almost 14 years old.
He finished school in the city of Polawny, serving the Church as a faithful Catholic and defending the Church and religion against a communist lecturer. The secret police took him in for questioning and tried to persuade him to spy on the nuns but he refused.
Pawlowski later sought to become a priest, entering the major seminary at Lublin. Few nuns and clergymen knew he was ethnically Jewish but the local bishop said that this was not an obstacle. However, some priests worried that parishioners would not accept a priest who was Jewish.
He was ordained to the priesthood on April 20, 1958. The nuns from his former orphanage hosted the celebration. He served as a priest in the Diocese of Lublin. In 1966, the millennium celebrations of the arrival of Christianity in Poland, Pawlowski drew national attention when he told his story in a major Catholic newspaper in Krakow. The article reached Israel, where relatives read it and contacted his long-lost brother Hayim.
He studied at the Catholic University of Lublin from 1968 to 1970.
Pawlowski then moved to Israel to serve both Polish and Hebrew-speaking Catholics.
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“My place is here, among the Jewish people. I sensed a call to come and serve Christians living in my country,” he said.
“I belong both to Poland and to Israel. I cannot speak against Poles because they saved me and I cannot speak against Jews because I am one of them,” said the priest.
Pawlowski was based in Jaffa for more than 38 years. He wrote books of poetry about his life and about the life of Christ. He also wrote books about religion and historical topics, the Saint James Vicariate’s website said.
He also authored the Hebrew and Polish inscriptions for gravemarker, near the mass grave that holds his family and other fellow Jews.
“I left my family In order to save my life at the time of the Shoah,” it reads. “They came to take us for extermination. My life I saved and have consecrated it to the service of God and humanity.”
“I have returned to them in this place where they were murdered, for the sanctification of God’s name. May their souls be set in eternal life.”