"Polish Righteous" Discussion Series

Redakcja/Editorial staff English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 13th March 2022
Marking the 80th anniversary of the establishment of “Żegota” and the 15th birthday of our Polish Righteous portal, POLIN Museum invites you to its “Polish Righteous” Discussion Series. The Series will feature on who the Righteous were, what has happened to their heritage and upon who deserves this title today, The first discussion, featuring the historical perspective, will take place on 23rd March – on the eve of the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews under German Occupation. Taking part in the discussion will be Dr. Angieszka Haska, Ewa Juńczyk-Ziomecka, Dr. Bartolomiej Krupa and Michał Okoński.
“The Polish Righeous are leaving us, but their stories remain. There is a great value in teaching about the, including on the Internet where the POLIN Museum shows the attitudes of Polish society towards Jews” – Anna Stupnicka-Bando, president of the Polish Association of the Righteous, who was honoured with the title in 1984.
“For a long time, the stories of the Righteous have been told at the POLIN Museum and will continue to be told. We are glad that they are presented with the use of modern multimedia” – Józef Walaszczyk, vice-president of the Polish Association of the Righteous, who was honoured with the title in 2002.

A discussion series marking the 80th anniversary of the establishment of “Żegota” and the 15th birthday of the Polish Righteous portal

4th December 2022 marks the eightieth anniversary of the establishment of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews – a Polish-Jewish organisation founded with the aim of saving Jews during the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland. The tasks of its members included searching for hiding places for Jews on the “Aryan side”, providing them with false identity documents and distributing financial support. 

In 2022, we also celebrate another landmark – fifteen years ago (November 2007), at the initiative of Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka and Ewa Wierzyńska, deputy directors of the then-established Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the “Polish Righteous – Restoring Memory” project was launched, initially run by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland.

One year later (November 2008), the fruits of the project – interviews with witnesses to history, studies, photographs – began appearing on a regular basis on a new knowledge portal – www.sprawiedliwi.org.pl. The project was under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński, who began the process of honouring, with high state decorations, Polish men and women who had saved Jews.

In 2012, the portal, along with all its resources, were handed over to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which was established at the initiative of the JHI, together with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the City of Warsaw. Since then, the Polish Righteous portal has continued to develop. It is one of the two most important internet projects run by the POLIN Museum, alongside the Virtual Shtetl portal. Through them, the Museum promotes knowledge about the history of Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations, and makes its digital collection available – studies, oral histories, photographs, films and educational materials. 

For nearly fifteen years, we have presented the stories of the Polish Righteous, taking into account the complexity and attitudes of Polish men and women towards the Holocaust. The history of “Żegota”, established eighty years ago, also has an important place on our pages. 

To mark these two anniversaries, you are invited to a discussion series on the Polish Righteous at POLIN Museum:

  • 23rd March (Wednesday), 7:30 pm : The Polish Righteous From a Historical Perspective
  • 21st September (Wednesday), 7:30 pm: The Legacy of the RIghteous
  • 14th Decemberrudnia (Wednesday), 7:30 pm: Who are Today's Righteous?

Discussions will take placeonline – broadcast of POLIN Museum's Facebook page »

A preview of the first discussion: The Polish Righteous From a Historical Perspective (23rd March 2022, 7:30 pm)

During the discussion, we will consider what the term “Righteous” means, how it has changed over time, how was its understanding influenced by politics and, finally, to what extent does the wartime reality of helping Jews allow for an unambiguous categorisation of perpetrators, victims, witnesses and recuers?

The discussion will take place in connection with two dates in March, which expand the concept of “Righteous”, as understood by the Yad Vashem Institute.

  • 6th March marks the European Day of the Righteous, established in  2012 by the European Parliament, to honour people who ated against totalitarian regimes and mass crimes in to 20th and 21st centuries.
  • 24th March, since 2017, is the Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews Under German Occupation. The date was established by the President of the Republic of Poland, on the anniversary of the death of the Ulma family of Markowa (24th March1944).

Participating in the discussion will be:

  • Dr Agnieszka Haska – is a cultural anthropologist and sociologist, who works at the Centre for Research of the Jewish Holocaust at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She researches various topics related to the Holocaust in Poland, ranging from the issue of collaboration and escapes from occupied Poland, to the contemporary politics of remembrance. She is the author of the book Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść. Hotel Polski w Warszawie [I am a Jew  I Want to Enter the Hotel Polski in Warsaw], 1943 (2006), as well as Hańba. Opowieści o polskiej zdradzie [Disgrace  Tales of Polish Betrayal] (2018). She has also authored many articles and has edited wartimes diaries and documents.
  • Ewa Juńczyk-Ziomecka – president of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, lawyer and journalist. For many years, she has been involved in Polish-Jewish relations. From  2001, for five years, she was Development Director and Deputy Directory of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. From there, she moved to the Chancellory of the President of the Republic of Poland where, between 2006 and 2010, she served first as Undersecretary and then as Secretary of State, heading the Office for Social Initiatives. From 2010, for nearly five years, she served as Polish Consul General in New York. In june 2015, shewas awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, for outstanding service in the creation of the Museum.
  • Dr Bartłomiej Krupa – adjunct professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. His research interests include Polish prose on the Holocaust, anthropology of literature and the history of 20th century historiography of the Holocaust. He is the author of many academic articles and books: Wspomnienia obozowe jako specyficzna odmiana narracji historycznej [Camp Memories as a Specific Type of Historical Narrative]  (Kraków 2006) and Opowiedzieć Zagładę [Relating the Holocaust], Polska proza i historiografia wobec Holocaustu [Polish Prose and the Historiography of the Holocaust] (1987–2003) (Kraków 2013).
  • Michał Okoński – journalist, special editions editor and columnist in the national sec of Tygodnik Powszechny. He specialises in writing about football and on Polish-Jewish relations. He has been published in Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita, Konteksty, Charaktery and Magazyn Kopalnia. Included in his publications is an interview with Sister Małgorzata Chmielewska (Everything That Has Been Done...). He edited the book by Jerzy Turowicz (Ticket to Heaven) and by Father Adam Boniecki (Better to Smoke a Pipe Than Witches..., Around the World).

» Watch the event on Facebook: Who Were the “Righteous”?