Holocaust foundation From the Depths this week launched its free car service for elderly Righteous Among The Nations in Poland, sending two London taxis to the country.
The two taxis, media sponsored by Jewish News and emblazoned with the symbol of Chelsea Football Club – a major sponsor of the charity – and From the Depths’ “Silent Hero” logo, set off for Poland after the launch in Parliament on Monday.
From the Depths founder, British-born Jonny Daniels said: “This is to honour the non-Jews who stood up to save our Jewish brothers and sisters. It was an epic task that was often led to people giving their lives to help Jews.”
Daniels said that it was significant that the launch event happened after the eighth Chanukah candle was lit. “The light connects us directly to the Righteous Among The Nations. Their stories symbolise the light of hope in a time of darkness.”
After visiting a small town in Poland where he was shown a house where Jews had been hidden and when the owner and most of the family had been murdered for their courage, Daniels said: “It was then that I took it upon myself – and turned into the main mission of my foundation – that we as the third and fourth generation after the Holocaust, as millennial, as younger people, must stand and do something to honour and remember both the survivors, those murdered, but also the saviours.”
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who hosted the event, recalled how members of own family in war-time Poland had helped Jews hide from the Nazis.
“When I went back to Poland for the first time in 1983… I sat with my aunt who recounted the story of how the brother of my grandfather hid Jewish friends and neighbours on his estate,” Kawczynski said.
“One day he was returning and his neighbours stopped and told him not to go back because the Germans had surrounded his farm. He said he had to go back because his wife and daughter were there.
“When he got home, the Germans made him take off his Polish officer’s boots, they made him dig a grave and they made him watch as they shot his 12-year-old daughter, then his wife. Then they shot him, and his only crime was protecting his Jewish friends and neighbours.”
Poland, he added, was the only Nazi-occupied country where helping Jews was punishable by death.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “Why would a Premier League football club from south west London start a campaign called ‘Say No To Antisemitism’?” The answer is simple – it is down to one man, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich.
“All of us have noticed the increase in antisemitic violence… Roman Abramovich has the ability to try to do something about this and he has instructed everyone at Chelsea to put their heads together to come up with ideas and that’s how we came up with Say No To Antisemitsm.”
At the core of the campaign is education, because “we believe that education, education, education is the way to make a real dent in antisemitism. We have to explain history.”
The launch event was also addressed by Polish Ambassador to the UK Arkady Rzegocki, former Chelsea and Israel coach Avram Grant – who is also honorary chairman of the foundation –BBC journalist Ania Lichtarowicz and taxi fleet owner Farley Freedman, who got involved after a chance encounter on the streets of Edgware.