Vale Józef Walaszczyk (1919–2022)

Redakcja/Editorial staff; English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 20th June 2022
With deep sadness, we learned of the passing of the oldest Polish Righteous Among the Nations (2002), Knight of the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2008), and long-serving vice-president of the Association of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations (2008–2022), Józef Walaszczyk. He passed away on 18th June 2022, in Warsaw, at the age of 102. He will remain in our memory as a noble, courageous and extremely kind man. In farewelling this friend of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, once again, we present his long and rich biography which features, in a special place, the story of helping Jews during the Holocaust.

“Back then, I wasn't afraid of anyone or anything [laughs]. I was so shattered, that I wasn't afraid of anything.

[...] While doing all of that, we felt that it was merely a drop in the immensity of human misfortune. [...] However, it was hard, just standing by and watching, with arms folded, knowing that you could do something to help”, said Józef Walaszczyk, in an interview for the POLIN Museum.

Shortly after the beginning of the German occupation, in December 1939, Józef Walaszczyk was appointed, by the Germans, to manage a potato flour factory in Rylsk (Rawsk District). Thanks to his good command of the German language and his efficient management of the factory, the Germans held a high opinion of him.

He took advantage of his position to help Jews during the Holocaust. He employed almost thirty people from the Rawa Mazowiecka ghetto. He paid a ransom in order to free twenty-one Jews held by the Gestapo in Warsaw and also obtained false identity papers for his friend Irena Front. He also illegally entered the Warsaw ghetto to visit friends, bringing them food and clothes.

On 9th May 2002, thanks to the efforts of Survivor Irena Front, Józef Walaszczyk was honoured, by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jeruesalem, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

“This story is full of extraordinary and risky actions, such that it should really be considered as a miracle that anyone remains who can still tell it”, reads the citation, published in 2008, on the occasion of Józef Walaszczyk and other Righteous being honoured, with high decorations, by the President of the Republic of Poland.

» Read, listen, watch: The Story of Józef Walaszczyk

From 8th August 2008, Józef Walaszczyk served as vice-president of the Association of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations. He was active in Poland and abroad, including being a part of the delegation of Polish Righteous who met with the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

He visited the POLIN Museum many times. In educational activities, he talked, to young people, about his wartime experiences. During numerous ceremonial events, he represented the Association of the Polish Righteous. He was twice interviewd by the POLIN Museum team, thereby enriching the Museum's oral history collection. 

“For a long time, the stories of the Polish Righteous have been told to the POLIN Museum and they will continue to remain here. We are pleased that they are presented here, using modern media”, said Józef Walaszczyk, about the Museum's Polish Righteous website, at the launch of the website's upgrade in December 2017.

The last time we met with Józef was at a meeting of the Association's Board held on 23rd February 2022. “Józio, Ziutek”, as he was called by those closest to him, will remain in our memory as a noble, courageous and extremely kind man and as a friend of the POLIN Museum.

We express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the late Józef Walaszczyk and to the Board of Management of the Association of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations.