There are 7,112 Polish men and women recognized as Righteous by the State of Israel
The citizens of Poland have the world's highest count of individuals who have been recognized by Yad Vashem of Jerusalem as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations, for saving Jews from extermination during the Holocaust in World War II. There are 7,112 (as of 1 January 2020 ) Polish men and women recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, over a quarter of the 27,712 recognized by Yad Vashem in total. The list of Righteous is not comprehensive and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Poles concealed and aided hundreds of thousands of their Polish-Jewish neighbors. Many of these initiatives were carried out by individuals, but there also existed organized networks of Polish resistance which were dedicated to aiding Jews – most notably, the Żegota organization.
In German-occupied Poland, the task of rescuing Jews was difficult and dangerous. All household members were subject to capital punishment if a Jew was found concealed in their home or on their property.
Before World War II, Poland's Jewish community had numbered between 3,300,000 and 3,500,000 people – about 10 percent of the country's total population. Following the invasion of Poland, Germany's Nazi regime sent millions of deportees from every European country to the concentration and forced-labor camps set up in the General Government territory of occupied Poland and across the Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany. Most Jews were imprisoned in the Nazi ghettos, which they were forbidden to leave. Soon after the German–Soviet war had broken out in 1941, the Germans began their extermination of Polish Jews on either side of the Curzon Line, parallel to the ethnic cleansing of the Polish population including Romani and other minorities of Poland.
As it became apparent that, not only were conditions in the ghettos terrible (hunger, diseases, executions), but that the Jews were being singled out for extermination at the Nazi death camps, they increasingly tried to escape from the ghettos and hide in order to survive the war. Many Polish Gentiles concealed hundreds of thousands of their Jewish neighbors. Many of these efforts arose spontaneously from individual initiatives, but there were also organized networks dedicated to aiding the Jews.
Most notably, in September 1942 a Provisional Committee to Aid Jews (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy Żydom) was founded on the initiative of Polish novelist Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, of the famous artistic and literary Kossak family. This body soon became the Council for Aid to Jews (Rada Pomocy Żydom), known by the codename Żegota, with Julian Grobelny as its president and Irena Sendler as head of its children's section.
It is not exactly known how many Jews were helped by Żegota, but at one point in 1943 it had 2,500 Jewish children under its care in Warsaw alone. At the end of the war, Sendler attempted to locate their parents but nearly all of them had died at Treblinka. It is estimated that about half of the Jews who survived the war (thus over 50,000) were aided in some shape or form by Żegota.
In numerous instances, Jews were saved by entire communities, with everyone engaged, such as in the villages of Markowa and Głuchów near Łańcut, Główne, Ozorków, Borkowo near Sierpc, Dąbrowica near Ulanów, in Głupianka near Otwock, Teresin near Chełm, Rudka, Jedlanka, Makoszka, Tyśmienica, and Bójki in Parczew-Ostrów Lubelski area, and Mętów, near Głusk. Numerous families who concealed their Jewish neighbours were killed for doing so.
|Warning of death penalty |
for supporting Jews
the Sheltering of Escaping Jews.
There is a need for a reminder, that in accordance with paragraph 3 of the decree of 15 October 1941, on the Limitation of Residence in the General Government (page 595 of the GG Register) Jews leaving the Jewish Quarter without permission will incur the death penalty.
According to this decree, those knowingly helping these Jews by providing shelter, supplying food, or selling them foodstuffs are also subject to the death penalty.
This is a categorical warning to the non-Jewish population against:
1) Providing shelter to Jews,
2) Supplying them with Food,
3) Selling them Foodstuffs.
During the occupation of Poland (1939–1945), the Nazi German administration created hundreds of ghettos surrounded by walls and barbed-wire fences in most metropolitan cities and towns, with gentile Poles on the 'Aryan side' and the Polish Jews crammed into a fraction of the city space. Anyone from the Aryan side caught assisting those on the Jewish side in obtaining food was subject to the death penalty. The usual punishment for aiding Jews was death, applied to entire families. On 10 November 1941, the death penalty was expanded by Hans Frank to apply to Poles who helped Jews "in any way: by taking them in for the night, giving them a lift in a vehicle of any kind" or "feed[ing] runaway Jews or sell[ing] them foodstuffs". The law was made public by posters distributed in all major cities. Polish rescuers were fully conscious of the dangers facing them and their families, not only from the invading Germans, but also from betrayers (see: szmalcowniks) within the local, multi-ethnic population and the Volksdeutsche. The Nazis implemented a law forbidding all non-Jews from buying from Jewish shops under the maximum penalty of death.
Gunnar S. Paulsson, in his work on history of the Warsaw Jews during the Holocaust, has demonstrated that, despite the much harsher conditions, Warsaw's Polish residents managed to support and conceal the same percentage of Jews as did the residents of cities in safer countries of Western Europe, where no death penalty for saving them existed.
There are 7,112 officially recognized Polish Righteous – the highest count among nations of the world. At a 1979 international historical conference dedicated to Holocaust rescuers, J. Friedman said in reference to Poland: "If we knew the names of all the noble people who risked their lives to save the Jews, the area around Yad Vashem would be full of trees and would turn into a forest." Hans G. Furth holds that the number of Poles who helped Jews is greatly underestimated and there might have been as many as 1,200,000 Polish rescuers.
Father John T. Pawlikowski (a Servite priest from Chicago) remarked that the hundreds of thousands of rescuers strike him as inflated.
- Irena Adamowicz, liaison between several Jewish ghettos providing communication and moral support 
- Wincenty Antonowicz with wife Jadwiga and daughter Lucyna, food and transport 
- Ferdynand Arczyński, took care of 4,000 Jews on the "Aryan" side of Warsaw (Zegota treasurer) 
- Zofia Baniecka and her mother rescued more than 50 Jews in their Warsaw apartment in 1941–1944
- Władysław Bartoszewski, Jewish Uprising assistance (Delegatura) 
- Anna Borkowska, saved 17 young Jewish Zionists in her Vilna convent 
- Franciszek and Magdalena Banasiewicz with children, saved families of 15 in a bunker near Przemyśl
- Szczepan Bradło and family, saved three families of 16 in a dugout 
- Krystyna Dańko, hid and supplied a Jewish family of four with food, clothing and money 
- Jan Dobraczyński, placed several hundred Jewish children in Catholic convents 
- Maria Fedecka, saved 12 members of close Jewish families in Wilno
- Mieczysław Fogg, hid a Jewish family in his apartment till the end of World War II 
- Andrzej Garbuliński and son, killed for sheltering Alfenbeins family 
- Antoni Gawryłkiewicz, saved three Jewish families consisting of 16 members 
- Matylda Getter, hid 550 Jewish children from the Warsaw getto in Polish orphanages 
- Zofia Glazer, saved Cypora with her baby from the Siedlce Ghetto before massacre 
- Julian Grobelny with wife Halina, rescued a large number of Jewish children (President of Zegota) 
- Irena Gut, rescued sixteen Jews by becoming Nazi
- Henryk Iwański, arms and military support for the Jewish Uprising, (AK) 
- Stefan Jagodziński, saved Dr. Tenenwurzel's family of three  member of resistance
- Stanisław Jasiński and daughter Emilia, hid Jews who escaped the Volhynian massacres 
- Jerzy and Eugenia Latoszyński, temporarily adopting Artur Citryn 
- Aleksander Kamiński, helped organize Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto (Home Army representative) 
- Jan Karski, first reported the Holocaust to President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
- Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, helped save several thousand Jews, especially children (co-founder of Żegota) 
- Maria Kotarba, "Angel of Auschwitz" delivering food and medicine, cooking for Jewish female prisoners 
- Władysław Kowalski, hid 50 Jews around Warsaw 
- Stefan Korboński
- Jerzy and Irena Krępeć saved over 30 Jews on their two rented estates near Płock 
- Jerzy Jan Lerski (George J. Lerski), informed political circles abroad about the extermination and persecution of Jews 
- Eryk Lipiński, involved in production of forged documents for the Jews in hiding
- Wanda Makuch-Korulska
- Igor Newerly, saved Janusz Korczak's diary of martyrdom, harboured several Warsaw Ghetto journalists 
- Janina Oyrzanowska-Poplewska and her sister Maria Oyrzanowska provided aid and housing to the Linfeld and Sterling families; their gardener, Jerzy Glinicki; and others, including Wiktoria Szczawińska and Franciszka Tusk (later known as Natalia Obrębka)
- Tadeusz Pankiewicz, operated the only pharmacy in the Jewish Ghetto of Kraków and distributed free medicine 
- Alfreda and Bolesław Pietraszek, rescued several Jewish families consisting of 18 people 
- The Podgórski sisters: Stefania (16, now Burzminski) and Helena (6), hid 13 Jews for two and a half years in an attic in Przemyśl; Stefania married one of the rescued who later changed his name to Burzminski. Television film "Hidden in Silence" was made about this rescue mission 
- Jan and Anna Puchalski hid 6 Jews at their house for 17 months in Łosośna 
- Maria Roszak (Sister Cecylia) Dominican nun with Anna Borkowska (Sister Bertranda) sheltered Jews from Vilnius Ghetto 
- Konrad Rudnicki and his mother Maria harbored the Weintraubs family during World War II 
- Irena Sendler, helped rescue at least 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto 
- Henryk Sławik, helped save over 5,000 Polish Jews in Budapest by giving them false 'arian' passports 
- Jadwiga and Stanislaw Solecki, hid a Jewish girl, Marlena Wagner, at their house for at least 24 months in Korczyna
- Barbara and son Jerzy Szacki, harboured a pregnant Ghetto fugitive with a 5-year-old, helped with the newborn 
- Józef and Wiktoria Ulma from Markowa, harbored 8 Jews, killed together with them, and their own 6 children by German police 
- Czesław Miłosz, took in Tross family and supported them financially
- Rudolf Weigl, made and supplied vaccines to two Jewish ghettos, employed Jews in hiding 
- Henryk Woliński, harbored 25 Jews in his apartment, helped 283 (AK BIP) 
- Paweł Zenon Woś, together with his parents, Paweł and Anna, smuggled 12 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto
- Jerzy Zagórski and wife Maria, harbored 18 Jews in their home before the Warsaw Uprising 
- Jan Żabiński and wife Antonina, sheltered hundreds of displaced Jews at his Warsaw Zoo 
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Thousands of helping acts were done on impulse, on the spur of the moment, lasting no longer than a few seconds to a few hours: such as a quick warning from mortal danger, giving some food or water, showing the way, sheltering from cold or exhaustion for a few hours. None of these acts can be recorded in full detail, with persons and names counted; yet without them the survival of thousands of Jews would not have been possible. If these people are anywhere typical of non-Jews under the Nazis, the percentage of 20 percent [rescuers] represents a huge number of many millions. I was truly astonished when I read these numbers...
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