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Opening of a temporary exhibition “Poles Saving Jews During the German Occupation” in Beijing

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 14:48

On the 74th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, Karol Nawrocki, who paid a visit to China, officially opened at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing a temporary exhibition prepared by the Museum, entitled “Poles Saving Jews During the German Occupation”.

The photography exhibit is devoted to Poles, who, despite the threat of capital punishment, were hiding Jews or helping them in any other way under the German occupation. The exhibition presents both Poles honoured with “the Righteous Among the Nations of the World” title, as well as those, who were not honoured (such as Blessed Sister Julia Rodzińska).

Upon opening the exhibition, Director Karol Nawrocki said:

“Today’s date – the 8th of May – reminds us about the formal end of the acts of war on the frontline of WWII in Europe. On this day, Germany signed unconditional capitulation act. Fights on the Asian frontline ceased a few months later, in September 1945, when Japan signed the capitulation act. However, the year 1945 did not become the year of freedom and victory for the entire Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland. My homeland, as well as other countries from the region, fell under the influence of a foreign power – the Soviet Russia – for almost 50 years, regaining freedom and independence only as a result of a long process, which started in 1989”.

Referring to the shared war experience of the Polish and Chinese peoples, the Director stated: 

“The Chinese and the Polish nations were suffering during this war, experiencing merciless, huge and irreparable losses. And although it is difficult to talk about suffering using statistical data, the number of over 30 million Chinese citizens, who lost their lives during the Second World War, is petrifying. The death of 6 million Polish citizens, accounting for nearly 20 percent of Polish population before the war, is no less terrifying. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, every fifth Pole died during the war. Therefore, faces and names presented today at the exhibition, become all the more heroic. It is an exhibit about Poles saving Jewish people in times when hiding Jews in the Germany-occupied Poland was punished with death. Poland was the only such state in the Germany-occupied Europe, where the occupant introduced capital punishment for helping Jews”.

The 74th anniversary of Germany signing the capitulation act, which falls today, attaches significance to the event. It was emphasised by the Director of the Chinese Museum, Li Zongyuan, who said:

“World War II ended in Europe on the 8th of May. It is an anniversary important to the entire world – world which values peace more than anything else. This exhibition presents Polish heroes to the Chinese, their steadfast spirit and heroism in saving Jews during the war”.

The exhibit commemorates such heroes as: the Ulma family, Jan Karski, Irena Sendler, Leopold Socha and many others, who sacrificed themselves and risked to save another person in spite of the inhumane times and inhumane laws enforced by the invaders.
Fragment of the introduction to the “Poles Saving Jews During the German Occupation” exhibitionAt least tens of thousands of Polish citizens – Christians – risked their lives to help Jews they knew, or even those they did not know. In most cases, the aid was provided individually, without the support of conspiratorial institutions. Thousands of accounts of the survivors recall instances of ad hoc help, yet they very frequently lack names of the helpers. Jews were being saved by people from all social classes. Some of them were hiding the victims of the Holocaust in their homes for many months – sometimes even for 2 years.

The Polish independence underground and the Jewish organisations established The Polish Council to Aid Jews (“Żegota”), which supported several thousand people between December 1942 and February 1945. It was the only such organisation in the territories occupied by Germany in Europe and Africa. These activities had full support of the London-based Polish authorities in exile.

The exhibition will be presented at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing from the 8th of May until the 8th of July 2019.