Deech reclaims her family silver

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 10, 2008

Sixteen knives and forks, the only remaining property of a prosperous Jewish family that lived until the Holocaust in a small town in southern Poland, have been returned to Baroness Deech.

A 101-year-old Polish painter, who had received the silver cutlery from Baroness Deech's aunt, contacted her following a report in the JC in June revealing that she plans to sue the Polish government for lost family assets.

Before the war, Eugeniusz Waniek and his family were close friends of the Frankel family - Baroness Deech's maiden lineage - in the small town of Ustrzyki Dolne.

Mr Waniek's mother tutored the Frankel children and in 1941, when the German army entered the town, one of the Frankel daughters gave him 16 silver knives and forks, hastily wrapped in a tablecloth, to guard while the Germans were rounding up the Jews.

Mr Waniek buried the cutlery and after the war hid it in his flat in Krakow. He was unable to locate surviving members of the Frankel family and had no idea where any of them went after the war.

"He is a highly intelligent man and a very good artist with a rebellious streak and he marvellously held on to what was given to him," said Baroness Deech.

Four months ago, the JC reported the former BBC governor's intention to start legal proceedings against the Polish government to obtain compensation for her family's property, including the house of her grandfather, mayor of Ustrzyki Dolne, together with a derelict oil refinery belonging to him.

The story was reprinted in the Polish media and brought to the attention of Mr Waniek, now 101 and still living in Krakow.

He contacted Baroness Deech through historian Professor Norman Davies and two weeks ago they met at his flat in Krakow, where, in an emotional encounter, Mr Waniek returned the cutlery after guarding it for 67 years. 

Last updated: 2:48pm, October 8 2008