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WWII Polish saviours of Jews highlighted in first-hand account

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 04.12.2012 15:02
Confidential recordings made fifty years ago in Israel about Polish saviours of their Jewish neighbours during World War II are to be released in book format.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski (R): photo - wikipedia

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who served for a time as Poland's foreign minister after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, announced the news on Wednesday, marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Zegota – the Polish underground's Council to Aid Jews.

Zegota, of which Bartoszewski was a member, was a branch of the Home Army (AK), the official underground force that was loyal to Poland's government-in-exile in London.

Poles who assisted Jews risked execution (along with their families) if caught by the occupying Nazi Germans forces.

In 1963, while on a visit to Israel, Bartoszewski was asked by the Yad Vashem Institute to make a series of recordings about his recollections concerning Zegota.

The tapes ran to several hours, and Bartoszewski was able to raise certain points that would have been unacceptable to Poland's then communist authorities.

“I explained the insignificance of the efforts and activities of the communists, in comparison with those authorised and funded by the Polish government-in-exile in London,” Bartoszewski reflected in a press release sent out on Tuesday.

Poland's communist regime had actively persecuted AK veterans following the war, although matters improved somewhat following the so-called 'Thaw' of 1956.

Bartoszewski says that he is publishing the book “so that the memory of these noble people is not lost.”

The text of the recordings will be released, complete with footnotes and an introduction, by academic publishing house PWN, with the book due to arrive in shops in January 2013.

Although anti-semitism was prevalent in Poland before and during the war, Zegota had about 100 cells across the country, the biggest branches being in Warsaw, Krakow, Lwow (now Lviv, Ukraine) and Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania).

The most renowned member was Irena Sendler, who rescued several thousand Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto created by the Nazis in 1940. (nh)

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