Polish and Hungarian WWII heroes honoured in Warsaw

Paweł Supernak/PAP

Poland has honoured a Pole and a Hungarian who together saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in Hungary during World War Two.

A ceremony commemorating the two, who are both Righteous Among The Nations of the World, was held on Thursday at the foot of a monument erected in their honour in Park Dolina Szwajcarska in central Warsaw.

"Henryk Sławik and Jozsef Antall Sr., the heroes of Poland and Hungary, who saved around 5,000 Polish Jews during World War Two, are for us a symbol of solidarity," said Elżbieta Witek, the speaker of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, in a letter read out during the ceremony.

"Heroes of three nations (Poland, Hungary and Israel - PAP), they are for us also a symbol of true friendship," Witek wrote, adding that, in those difficult times, they proved that it was worth being a human being, "despite all the circumstances."

Henryk Sławik (1894-1944) was a Polish politician, social activist and diplomat who, during World War Two, together with Jozsef Antall, a Hungarian government executive, issued false passports to help about 30,000 Polish refugees, including about 5,000 Polish Jews, in Hungary.

In Budapest, Sławik established a Citizen's Committee for Helping for Polish Refugees and, along with Jozsef Antall, organised jobs for POWs and refugees.

He also assisted exiled POWs in leaving internment camps and travelling to France to join the Polish Army, and was a delegate of the Polish Government-in-Exile. Arrested after German forces entered Hungary in 1944, he was executed in Mauthausen concentration camp on August 25 or 26, 1944.

In 1990, he was posthumously granted the Yad Vashem medal for "The Righteous among the Nations of the World." In 2004, he was posthumously awarded the Grand Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order, and in 2010 the Order of the White Eagle.

Jozef Antall Sr. (1896-1974) was appointed a Hungarian government commissioner for war refugees in 1939. He was awarded numerous foreign distinctions, including, the Commander's Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order in 1948, and posthumously the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2010). In 1990, he was posthumously decorated with the Yad Vashem Righteous Among the Nations of the World medal.