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English Section

Group of Polish WWII diplomats ‘went out of their way to save Jews’: Israeli newspaper

30.12.2019 13:05
New documents shed light on a massive rescue effort undertaken by the Polish government-in-exile during World War II to save Jews, an Israeli newspaper has reported.
Aleksander Ładoś (1891-1963)
Aleksander Ładoś (1891-1963)Image: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain]

The risky and complicated effort was orchestrated by Aleksander Ładoś, the Polish government-in-exile’s de facto ambassador to Switzerland, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported.

It described Ładoś as an “unsung hero” who led an extensive operation to save thousands of Jews from extermination during the Holocaust.

The paper reported that six "memory scrolls" with 3,262 names on them were put on display at the Jewish Museum of Switzerland, located in Basel, for the first time in December.

Those were Jews from Poland, the Netherlands, and Germany who were issued fake Latin American passports in Switzerland, thus earning a chance to escape Nazi-occupied Europe, Israel Hayom reported on its website.

A similar exhibition opened in Israel at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on Dec. 15, according to the israelhayom.com website.

Poland’s Pilecki Institute this month released a list of names of over 3,000 Jews who were provided with fake passports by Polish diplomats based in Switzerland during the war.

The Bern-based group, led by Ładoś and including Jewish activists, is credited with helping potentially thousands of Jews escape from Poland at a time when the country was under Nazi German occupation.

Israel Hayom reported that hundreds of encrypted diplomatic cables were sent from the legation in Bern to the Polish government-in-exile’s foreign ministry in London, to the Polish embassy in Washington, to Polish missions in New York and Latin American countries, as well as to the Polish consulates in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in order to marshal their support for the operation. 

Those cables contained some initial reports on the horrors of the Holocaust and "made a plea to inform the US and British governments of the unfolding genocide and called on the Allies to bomb the railways to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp," according to israelhayom.com.

The cables were found in Poland’s national archives and at the Hoover Institution in the United States, Israel Hayom reported.

Among those helped by the Bern-based group in the early stages of the war was Yosef Burg, a Jewish man who later became one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel, according to a report earlier this year by public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency.

After nearly 75 years Poland’s government in August last year said it had recovered a historical archive documenting the effort in which its diplomats helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.

The collection originally belonged to Chaim Eiss (1867-1943), an Orthodox Jewish activist who was a member of the Bern-based group led by Ładoś.

One of the Polish diplomats who was a member of the group, Konstanty Rokicki (1899-1958), was earlier this year posthumously recognised by Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial centre as a Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The Righteous Among the Nations award is the highest Israeli civilian distinction. Recipients receive a medal with a quote from the Talmud saying: "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."


Source: israelhayom.com