Jozef Wilk

Jozef Wilk

Born: March 19, 1925

Rzeszow, Poland

Jozef was the youngest of three children born to Roman Catholic parents in the town of Rzeszow in southern Poland. Jozef's father was a career officer in the Polish army. Jozef excelled in sports, and his favorite sport was gymnastics. He also studied the piano.

1933-39: Jozef was 14 when Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. The invasion affected him deeply. Brought up in a patriotic family, he had been taught to love and defend Poland. The Germans were bombing Warsaw, the Polish capital, but Jozef was too young to join the army. The Germans reached Rzeszow on Sunday, September 10. After that, Jozef made his way to Warsaw, where he joined his two older sisters.

1940-43: In Warsaw Jozef became a sapper in a special unit of the Polish resistance. His code name was "Orlik." On April 19, 1943, during the Warsaw ghetto uprising, his unit was ordered to blow open part of Warsaw's ghetto wall so Jews could escape. As his unit approached the wall on Bonifraterska Street with explosives and weapons under their coats, his friend "Mlodek" tripped and his pistol accidentally dropped to the pavement. A policeman spotted the pistol and opened fire. Chaos erupted. German units opened fire on the unit before it could reach the wall.

Jozef and "Mlodek" were killed. Their retreating unit detonated the explosives, blowing up Jozef's and "Mlodek's" bodies to make them unrecognizable. Jozef was 18.

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