A Jewish Holocaust survivor who became a Catholic priest, then moved to Israel to serve a Catholic community there, has died. He will be buried in Poland at the Jewish cemetery where his mother and sisters were murdered.
Survived the Holocaust
Fr. Gregor Pawlowski, born Jacob Zvi Griner, was raised in an observant Jewish family in Zamosc, Poland. In 1942, when he was 11 years old, the German army arrived in his town and ordered all of the Jews to leave, reported the National Catholic Reporter in a 2009 article on the priest.
Griner, his mother and two sisters hid in the basement. When German troops discovered them, Griner managed to escape, but his mother and sisters were taken to Izbica’s Jewish cemetery, where they were slaughtered in a mass grave. Griner’s father presumably was also killed, and his brother Chaim escaped to the Soviet Union.
Saved by a forged Catholic baptismal certificate
Using a forged Catholic baptismal certificate given to him by a Jewish teenager, Griner was eventually placed in a Catholic orphanage run by the Polish Red Cross.
It was here that Griner embraced the Catholic faith, reported the National Catholic Reporter.
“I came from a deeply religious family and I desperately wanted religion in my life again,” he said.
He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958, taking the name “Pawlowski” from his forged baptismal certificate.
In 1966 he decided to tell the story of his Jewish background for the first time.
“I began to become aware that I had not admitted who I am and who my people are,” he told the National Catholic Reporter.
In an article for a Polish Catholic weekly, he wrote, “Some Jews may see a betrayer in me, but I feel as Jewish as they are.”
In reconciling his Catholic faith with his Jewish identity he later said, “Jesus was the messiah and he was also Jewish and so were his apostles,” according to the report.
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