Holocaust rescuers proposed for Warsaw street patrons
A group of Holocaust survivors and their descendants have asked Warsaw's authorities to commemorate two Polish diplomats based in Switzerland during World War II for helping Jews escape deportation to death camps.
In their motion they proposed to name two Warsaw streets after Aleksander Ładoś and Konstanty Rokicki, who forged documents for Jewish refugees in the Polish embassy in Bern.
Their operation, known as the Bernese Group, comprised diplomats of Polish and Jewish descent who forged foreign travel documents for Jews fleeing Europe during the war. The group included Ambassador Aleksander Ładoś, his deputy Stefan Ryniewicz, Consul Konstanty Rokicki and Juliusz Kuehl. The group also included Polish MP Abraham Silberschein and Rabbi Israel Chaim Eiss, leader of the Swiss branch of the Agudat Israel Orthodox organisation.
The Polish diplomats forged South American passports which protected their holders from deportation to extermination camps. Instead, they were directed to internment camps where many of them were held until the end of the war.
Funded by Jewish organisations and the Polish government-in-exile, the operation is estimated to have saved the lives of 700-800 people. Poland's embassy in Bern knows the names of at least half of them, 20 or more are still alive.
After the war, Rokicki settled permanently in Switzerland and died in Lucerne in 1958. He has been posthumously decorated with the Righteous Among the Nations title by Israel's Holocaust-commemorating Yad Vashem Institute.
Asked about the idea to dedicate Warsaw streets to Ładoś and Rokicki, Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told PAP that "there have been no better people in this world" than the two Polish wartime diplomats.
"This is a very important initiative. People like Aleksander Ładoś and Konstanty Rokicki were exactly what God intended people to be," Schudrich said.
He added that the initiative could serve as an example for younger generations, who "often look up to bad role models."
"Here, they have two magnificent examples of how life should be lived," Schudrich said.
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