Yad Vashem researching Polish righteous diplomats - Israeli president

The Polish diplomats forged South American passports which protected their holders from deportation to extermination camps. Ministry of Culture and National Hertige

Israel's Holocaust remembrance institute Yad Vashem has been analysing additional documents related to two Polish war-time diplomats in Switzerland that helped save Jews, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin told a Polish honorary consul in Zurich.

The letter to the consul, Markus Blechner, as seen by PAP, is Rivlin's response to the former's appeal to honour all Polish diplomats making up the so called Ładoś Group, an informal organisation which issued passports to Jews to protect them from Nazi extermination.

Rivlin expressed his admiration and appreciation for all the "brave people" who risked their own lives to save Jews during World War Two. He also said his office had contacted Yad Vashem about the two diplomats, Aleksander Ładoś and Stefan Ryniewicz, from the Ładoś Group and recalled that the institute had already honoured a third member of the clandestine organisation, Konstanty Rokicki, with the Righteous Among the Nations title.

Yad Vashem is about to send an official letter to the two's families, thanking for their efforts, the Israeli president said.

Yad Vashem has recently received additional documents concerning Ładoś and Ryniewicz. They are being analysed but the formal assessment has not been completed yet, Rivlin also said.

Last year Yad Vashem told PAP that Rokicki had been a key figure among the Polish diplomats in Bern, Switzerland, and would be the only one to receive the Righteous Among the Nations title. The other diplomats were to be offered official thanks.

The Ładoś Group, also 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.

Founded 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 has confirmed the names of at least half of them, and 20 or more are still alive.