Sebastian Kazak - Instytut Pileckiego

Permanent exhibition "Called by Name" / The commemorated

Sebastian Kazak (~1870–1943)

Commemorated in 2022.

Commemorated on 24 March 2022 in Brzóza Królewska.

Sebastian lived with his wife Katarzyna and their children in the village of Brzóza Królewska near Leżajsk. The couple had eight children, of which three passed away at a very young age. The family earned a living through farm work and rearing animals. Sebastian was a very hard-working man. He leased additional land from the commune in order to provide his family with the best possible life. Sebastian and Katarzyna could always count on the support of their children, who not only helped them on the farm, but also sought out work outside the village. Their eldest daughter Agnieszka, and their youngest Józefa, stayed with their parents to the end.

The terrible period of the German occupation brought about the death of Sebastian’s eldest son, Józef, who perished in Auschwitz in March 1942. Mere months later, the German began to liquidate the local Jewish population. Jews from the Leżajsk region were taken to the death camp in Bełżec; anyone who managed to flee the transports went into hiding.

The Kazaks spent several weeks helping the children of their neighbor, Pinchas Wachs, but the children eventually returned to their own home, where they died along with their parents. The next person they helped was Chana Stiller. Chana’s daughter was a classmate of the Kazaks’ youngest daughter Józefa. Sebastian prepared a small space in the barn where Chana could hide during the day. At night, she went into the Kazaks’ house and was given food and a place to sleep. She was often visited by two male friends, for whom Sebastian prepared a place in the attic above the pantry. The two men often stayed overnight.

On 27 March 1943, German gendarmes came to the Kazaks’ property. Sebastian happened to be out in the yard at the time. The Germans searched the house and immediately discovered the two men sleeping in the attic and shot them on site. Then the soldiers went to the barn, led Chana Stiller out and shot her. The next person to be shot was Sebastian Kazak himself. When Katarzyna saw what happened to her husband, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and collapsed. She was executed with a shot to the head.

The village leader intervened to have the Kazaks buried at the local cemetery, but only an unsanctified grave could be secured. The Jews were buried in the farmyard. The Kazaks’ daughters, Agnieszka and Józefa, managed to escape and avoid execution, but they remained in danger for a long time after the events and were unable to return home.

In 2008, Sebastian Kazak was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Institute. The Pilecki Institute commemorated him on 24 March 2022 in Brzóza Królewska.