Kann Maria

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Story of Rescue - Kann Maria

Maria Kann lived in Warsaw. She was a writer, a social activist, and a supporter of Polish scouts and gliding. During the Nazi occupation, she became involved with the underground by means of, among other things, editing an aviation magazine for independent youth (Wzlot) and co-founding a publishing house under the name of Załoga. Close to the end of the war, she was an employee of the Government Delegation for Poland. After the war, in 1945, she became a member of Freedom and Independence [Wolność i Niezawisłość], an anti-communist organisation.

One of the most important aspects of Maria Kann’s activity during the Nazi occupation was her help for Jewish people. She worked together with, among others, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Władysław Bartoszewski. In time, their joint work developed into organised aid as part of the Council to Aid Jews “Żegota”.

As part of “Żegota”, she transferred children from the ghetto to foster families or orphanages. This was not an easy feat to accomplish, particularly if the children had the “wrong look” about them and it was easy to discern their true origin. She had the following recollections about saving a girl: “We dashed from place to place in the city, dragging her behind us and freezing with terror whenever someone stopped to examine her. No one would hide her. Eventually, we ended up at ul. Chłodna (...) The lady of the house bridled on seeing the girl and asked us to take her away immediately..”.

Witnessing the tragic fate of Jewish people, Maria Kann could not remain indifferent to the fighting in the Warsaw ghetto in the spring of 1943. She believed that if the world learned about that tragedy, everything would change and superpowers of the world would have to react. Having consulted with Aleksander Kamiński, she started writing a brochure. Thus one of the most important Polish studies concerning the war period was created, entitled Before the Eyes of the World [Na oczach świata]. In it, the reasons underlying the uprising in the ghetto were described, as well as the development of the Jewish Fighting Organisation and the course of the fighting. It also contained authentic accounts and documents. The author pointed out the negative impact of those events on Polish society – the forced deterioration of morality resulting from having to witness mass murder of people. This had had a particularly strong effect on children who might have assumed that it is natural to classify nations as superior and inferior, it being possible to exterminate the latter, and that there were “people” and “Jews”. “That is what many Polish mothers fear deep down in their hearts”, she commented. The distribution of her work started in the autumn of 1943 and it influenced numerous strata of the society, Catholic and otherwise. It was also sent to London.

Maria helped others selflessly. She acted out of humanitarian considerations and on the basis of her ideals. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded her with the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1963.

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Bibliography

  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 349/24, 2052
  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Bartoszewski Władysław, Lewinówna Zofia, Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej, Warszawa 2007
    This publication consists of 3 parts: monographic outline of the issue of aid given to the Jews; collection of German and Polish documents concerning the histories of Jews and the aid given to them; collection of the post-war reports created by Poles and Jews about the aid.
  • Prekerowa Teresa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie 1942-1945, Warszawa 1982
    A monograph concerning the Council to Aid Jews, an organization operating during the war in the Government Delegation for Poland and providing help to Jews, especially those hiding on “the Aryan side”.
  • Arczyński Marek, Balcerak Wiesław, Kryptonim "Żegota". Z dziejów pomocy Żydom w Polsce 1939-1945, Warszawa 1983