• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland


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  • 13 March 2019

    A petition has been launched on the UK Parliament’s website calling for the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to honour non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from Nazi extermination.


    The petition, started by Holocaust survivor Lili Pohlmann, appeals for the project to feature a section dedicated to the Righteous Among the Nations, who helped rescue thousands of Jewish people before and during the Second World War.


    It states that „most people were bystanders during the Holocaust“ and reminds of the death penalty imposed in many parts of German-occupied Europe on anyone found to be helping Jews during that time, emphasising that despite this „thousands of non-Jews risked their lives to help Jewish people“.


    The appeal was officially made during last week’s commemoration of the European Day of the Righteous at the Houses of Parliament organised by the Polish Embassy in London, Lord Maurice Glasman and the charity Learning from the Righteous.


    In addition to the online petition, Pohlmann has written a letter addressed to the co-chairs of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Lord Eric Pickles and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls, stressing the importance of honouring “the great humanitarian effort of the Righteous” without whom “many of us would not be here today”.


    “These ‘silent heroes’”, it says, “fought not with weapons but with their hearts, helping thousands escape from ghettos, hiding them, forging IDs to change their identities, and providing money, food and medicines for prisoners in labour camps”.


    Also expressing the wish to “observe a once-a-year International Day of the Righteous Among the Nations”, Pohlmann hopes that by honouring the Righteous, the memorial can “also inspire the visitors – especially the younger generation – to follow the example set by the Righteous and everyone else who helped the Jews and others in need during the darkest hours of the Second World War by demonstrating our shared humanity, thus making a positive impact on the world we live in today”.


    The commemoration at the Parliament focused on lessons learned from Polish people, the largest national group among the Righteous Among the Nations, by British teachers and students who visited places of Jewish heritage in Poland as part of University of Manchester’s Diversity Champions programme.


    It featured an exhibition about Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust, created by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.


    Among those present were MPs, representatives of Jewish organisations, diplomatic corps and the Polish diaspora as well as Holocaust witnesses, scholars and experts on Polish-Jewish relations.


    Speaking at the event, Ambassador of Poland Arkady Rzegocki expressed his hope that the deeds of such Polish Righteous as Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, Antonina and Jan Żabiński, and Irena Sendler, as well as the Polish Underground State and the Polish Government-in-Exile in London will have a positive effect on the next generation, “for it is them who will shape the future”.


    The UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is a planned memorial to the victims of the Holocaust that is intended to be built in the Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament, by 2021.


    In December 2018, a planning application for the memorial was submitted to Westminster City Council. Last month, more than 170 MPs and peers signed a letter in support of the proposal to build it.


    6th March was established as the European Day of the Righteous by the European Parliament on the initiative of the Italian Committee of the World Garden of the Righteous “Gariwo”. The day commemorates the people who opposed crimes against humanity and totalitarianisms, including those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. The number of people recognised as Righteous Among the Nations stands at 26,973, including 6,863 Polish people.


    The commemoration followed an event organised by the Polish Embassy at the Parliament a year ago celebrating the life of Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, who, together with other activists from the Polish underground organisation Żegota – the Polish Council to Aid Jews, rescued many hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War.


    Polish Embassy UK Press Office


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