The former director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department, Mordecai Paldiel, has asked for recognition for two wartime Polish diplomats whose efforts may have saved up to 8,000 Jews
Dr Paldiel, now at Yeshiva University in New York, was taking part in a panel discussion, convened by the Polish Embassy in the UK, to discuss the role of Poland’s London-based government-in-exile in helping Jews during the Holocaust. He was joined at JW3 by Professor Antony Polonsky, an expert in Polish-Jewish relations based at Brandeis University in New York, and the director of Poland’s Pilecki Institute, Dr Wojciech Kozłowski.
During the war years, a group of Polish diplomats in Switzerland, known as the Bernese group, issued fake Latin American passports to hundreds of Jews. Facsmiles of the documents provided were on display at JW3, collected by the Pilecki Institute.
Dr Paldiel, who spoke in detail about the work of the Bernese group, said that he had just written a comprehensive report about its leader, the former Polish ambassador to Switzerland Aleksander Ładoś, and his deputy Stefan Ryniewicz, who oversaw the initiative to forge the passports. He believed that the work done by the two diplomats merited consideration by Yad Vashem, which awards the title of Righteous among the Nations.
The Polish ambassador to Britain, Arkady Rzegocki, opened the event. He said: “It is an honour for me to speak of the selfless acts of a government which, despite being forced into exile and operating from foreign soil, through its well-connected channels and network of emissaries, managed to bring aid and hope to those suffering and provided priceless intelligence about the Holocaust to the free world”.
He also presented a special Polish embassy reprint of Raczyński’s Note, the first official document informing the West about the Holocaust.
The event was chaired by Jenni Frazer.