16 December 2014


How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939-1945

By Ewa Kurek
Introduction by Jan Karski
C 1977 Hippocrene Books
Originally published in Poland as Gdy Klasztor Znaczyl Sycie  C Zvak Publishers

The book starts out with a translation of a poster that was posted in German and Polish during the occupation.  It says:

A reminder - in accordance with paragraph 3 of the decree of October 15, 1941, on the Limitation of Residence in 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.  Dr. Franke - Town Commissioner - Czestochowa 9/24/42."

This book was first published as a graduate student thesis and it is very detailed, informative, and most importantly strives to show both sides honesty and fairly. So it begins with just what the interaction of most Jews with most Christians was before the Holocaust, and that was minimal, but for the professional classes which would have come in contact with each other mostly in business.  (That would include Doctors and Lawyers.)

One of the reasons I'm posting this book review/recommendation on Ancestry Worship - Genealogy is that sometimes Industrial era immigrants from Poland and other countries effected by the holocaust have suggested to later generations that someone in the family was a convert from Judaism to Catholicism or another Christianity. I then often hear that this had to be "impossible" because Jews and Christians had little to nothing to do with each other in the old country.

Well, now that you've read what the law was, you know that indeed, anyone who helped a Jew survive could be put to death themselves.  Such people, when recognized for their sacrifice are called "Righteous Gentiles" by Jews today.

Page 33
According to the estimates of the Remembrance Institute of Yad Vashem in Jerusalen, of the nearly one million Jewish children in Poland, only five thousand survived the Holocaust.

Page 35
Many Jews refused the offer of help for their children because  they did not want them to be converted.  Conversion was one of the reasons for those offers. "The Catholic clergy has always made use of hard times in the life of Jews (pograms, deportations, etc.) for winning both adults and children."  Additionally, some clergy could offer shelter and hide children under the threat of death but they could not necessary afford to feed and support the child and charged money for this.

Page 45
"On the eve of World War II, there were 74 active convents and11 contemplative ones in Poland, in which over 20,000 nuns lived." ... "The nuns belonging to the active orders in Poland worked among and for the Polish people.  They satisfied Polish society's great needs concerning child care through their work in orphanages, nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and boarding-schools; they too care of the poor, the sick, the homeless, as well as outcasts; they constituted the bulk of the junior medical staff in hospitals all over Poland; they taught religion and helped with the work of numerous Catholic parishes.

Yes, in order to hide the children under watchful Nazi eyes, the children had to learn the prayers, dress differently, and sometimes remain silent in order to hide an accent or the fact that they did not speak Polish, but Yiddish.  Still, most likely some Nazi's knew or suspected that some of the children they saw when they showed up at these nunneries were Jewish.  Perhaps they respected the nuns enough to pretend not to know.

This book contains the testimonials of some of the children as adults as well as some of the nuns.  It also contains a list of the orders of nuns by location, for instance  Baworow was the Albertine Sisters, Chorzow, the Dominican Sisters, Grodzisko, Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, Kostowiec, Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

A valuable book, that covers a part of history that many people's families took part in on one side or the other.

11 December 2014


How a heroic HJapanese diplomat saved Jewish refugees in World War II

C 2005 Dentsu Inc.

In 1939, as Hitler advanced through Eastern Europe and Jews fled, Japanese diplomat CHIUNE SUGIHARA decided that he would provide handwritten (in Japanese) passports to thousands of others.  He risked his career and ultimately was punished and by the time he returned to his family he was a changed man, for the worse, unsmiling and perhaps depressed.

He was the Japanese Counsul to Litrhuania and more than 2000 Sughihara visas allowed families to flee through Russia to Japan and then abroad.  He is the Japanese Shindler.  For today there are at least 40,000 people alive due to his decision to act upon his innermost values. 

In a case like this I always hope that this person has their reward in the afterlife and in future incarnations.