Could you risk your life and the lives of your entire family to aid Jews? Could you continue to do it for over two years, knowing that if caught you and your entire family would be massacred?
Thousands of Christians risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. One such rescuer, Helena Weglowski Szachniewicz, 85, of Ilawa Poland, was reunited with her childhood friend, Mira Wexler, 76, in a tearful reunion on November 26, 2014 at Kennedy Airport in New York City. It had been 70 years since the two had seen each other. Helena’s family hid Mira, her brother and her mother Chana after the Nazis invaded Poland. The Wexlers and Weglowskis had been friends for years before the war.
According to news stories, the Germans forced Wexler and her parents into a ghetto in 1942 where her father Jacob was murdered. Her mother Chana somehow managed to escape with Mira and her brother and make it to the Weglowski farm. Weglowski’s parents were devout Christians and helped their longtime friends. They helped more than just the Wexlers and are counted as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
The penalty for any Pole offering any kind of aid, food or shelter to a Jew, was death. Death to the person offering aid, the entire family, and any Jews caught in hiding. And yet thousands of Christian Poles assumed that risk, with courage, self-sacrifice and ingenuity. I’ve been amazed that some major “Holocaust” institutions, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum intentionally omit so many positive stories of good Poles from Witold Pilecki to Jan Karski (both of whom I’ve posted and can be found under the category “Notable Poles.).
On a positive note, I was impressed when a Polish friend recently tipped me off to a very positive organization that focuses on the “traditional Jewish commitment to hakarat hatov, the searching out and recognition of goodness.” The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous is committed to helping those rescuers in need, especially as most are in their later years. The number of rescuers receiving financial assistance peaked at 1750 in 2003. The numbers continue to dwindle as aging reduces the number of remaining survivors. The organization anticipates disbursing $1.7 million in 2014 to nearly 600 Christian rescuers.
The foundation issues stipends to the survivors that helps with food, medicine and other costs of living that can be tough. Of the current 599 being helped, 310 are in Poland and 121 are in the Ukraine. I include both because since the borders changed between these countries four times in the 20th century, the WWII Poland used to include some of Ukraine.
The foundation flew in the children and grandchildren of both Wexler and Weglowski for a group portrait and meeting. Both families were scheduled to spend a week in Brooklyn and celebrate Thanksgiving together.
I’m adding the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous to my resource tab. They also offer education outreach programs for teachers and students.
Photos – I would love to include photos of this great story, however they are all copyrighted. I’m including the links to a couple of stories so you can read further and get pictures.
((Note – I tried including a link to a news story but had a couple of issues. Enter either name into a search engine and you’ll see quite a few))