Poland has obtained a World War II-era archive that documents efforts by Polish diplomats to get Jews out of Europe by issuing fake passports from Latin American countries.
The Eiss archive shows that 330 people survived the Holocaust due to the efforts of the Polish diplomats based in Switzerland, and another 387 were killed despite having the forged passports. The fate of 430 others is not known.
Poland’s Culture Ministry and the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum negotiated with a private owner in Israel for the archive for the past year, the museum said Monday in a statement.
The statement calls the archive “irrefutable proof that Poles, the Polish state, and its representatives systemically and institutionally were involved in saving Jews during World War II.”
“The activities of the then-Polish diplomats in Switzerland, newly discovered and documented, can be an inspiration for historians, but also for writers, filmmakers, and creators of culture,” it said.
The rescue effort was led by the Polish ambassador to Switzerland, Aleksander Lados, as well as three other Polish diplomats and two representatives of Jewish organisations. The archive is named for Rabbi Chaim Eiss, one of the Jewish activists, who died of a heart attack in late 1943. The documents reportedly came to Israel with one of Eiss’ descendants after World War II.
The collection includes eight of the false Paraguayan passports; photos of Jews requesting the passports; and letters between the Polish diplomats and Jewish organisations. It also includes a list of Jewish children in Warsaw orphanages.
The documents, which will be displayed at first in Bern, Switzerland, will become part of the collection at the Auschwitz museum next year. They will be subject to conservation and thoroughly analysed by archivists and historians once they arrive at the museum.
Poland passed a controversial law early this year making it a criminal offense to accuse the country of complicity in the Holocaust. Lawmakers later revised the law to make it a civil offense.
During the war, Poles saved thousands of Jews. Other Poles killed thousands of Jews or betrayed them to the Nazis. The Nazis killed 3 million Jewish Poles and another 3 million non-Jewish ones.
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