According to Yad Vashem of Israel, the organization that designates and honors the ‘Righteous Among The Nations’, (RATN) more Poles are honored than any other nationality.
The definition for people honored as RATN is ‘ those who not only saved Jews, but risked their lives in doing so.’ To be awarded this honor, someone must submit an application on behalf of the proposed honoree. There are stiff requirements for the honor. Up until now the saved Jews had to testify and verify the acts that qualified the nominees. I have to wonder, as the population of survivors of WWII reach their 80’s and 90’s, if the awards will simply stop because there are no survivors left.
The statistics could be interpreted many ways. More Jews lived in Poland than other European nations; in many towns Jews were more integrated with the Christian gentiles, thus deep friendships formed between neighbors, school mates and employers. The penalty for sheltering a Jew was death for the entire family, or sometimes the entire village. I ask myself – could I do it? No one really knows until they are in the same circumstances. But I’d probably be more willing to save a close friend than a stranger if it meant risking my life, though many, many of those who stepped forward did it because it was simply the right thing to do. Look up Irena Sendler if you haven’t done so.
Photo from Henry’s scrapbook. Photo was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004. From my notes this is what Henry said about his friend Jacob Haubenstock:
This is my friend Jacob. We must have been at a swim meet, since we are both in swimsuits. I swam for the Cracovia team, Jacob swam for the Jewish swim team, the Maccabbee.
Jacob’s father owned the corner deli/convenience store, on the corner of Panska Street in Krakow. Jacob was smart and was my best friend. He disappeared during the war and emerged later after the war in Breslau (now Wroclaw.) His father got sent to the Warsaw ghetto.
After the war, Jacob became a dentist in Wroclaw.