British MP and family honored as Righteous Gentiles in Poland

September 18, 2017 20:17

The MP’s great uncle Jan Kawczynski and his wife and 10-year-old daughter were killed by German soldiers for helping Jews.

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British MP and family honored as Righteous Gentiles in Poland

British MP Daniel Kawczynski was honored for saving hundreds of Polish Jews, September 18, 2017.. (photo credit:TOMASZ SOLINSKI)

British MP Daniel Kawczynski and his family were honored on Monday for saving hundreds of Polish Jews during the Holocaust at an award ceremony held by the NGO From the Depths at the Warsaw Zoo.

The venue is the site where Antonina and Jan Zabinski, after whom the From The Depths Zabinski Awards are named, rescued more than 300 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943-1945.

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Kawczynski’s family was one of three to receive the award this year, which was handed out for the second year running. The MP’s great-uncle Jan Kawczynski and his wife and 10-year-old daughter were killed by German soldiers for helping to hide Jews in their home.

Kawczynski is the first Polish Brit to serve in the British Parliament. Ahead of his attendance at Monday’s ceremony, he received a letter from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who wrote: “I was interested to hear of your impending trip to Poland to attend the ‘From The Depths Zabinski Awards,’ and wanted to send my best wishes for what I am sure will be a very moving ceremony.

“You must be incredibly proud of your great-uncle, Jan Kawczynski, and his heroic efforts to save Jews during the Second World War. Such acts of bravery and defiance must never be forgotten – they remind us not only of the horrors of the past, but also of the continuing need to confront bigotry and antisemitism wherever we see it,” she continued.

Other recipients of the award were the Franciscan Sisters of the Monastery of Mary who, following the instructions of their mother-general, Ludwika Lisówna, and the provincial mother superior of the Warsaw area, Matylda Getter, opened their convents to Jews. It is estimated that they saved the lives of more than 750 Jews.

From the list of over a hundred sisters who were involved in saving Jews, only a few were awarded the Yad Vashem medal, and the rest of them were never honored, From the Depths stated, seeking to rectify this situation with its award, which was accepted by a group of nuns who serve as guardians of the memory of the monastery’s Holocaust-era activity.

The final recipient, Natalia Jakobiuk, grew up in the Polish city of Przeradz Maly. When she was six years old, the Second World War broke out, and her family hid multiple Jewish families in the attic of their home. Natalia acted as the lookout, notifying people when the Nazis were near.

Guests of the event included representatives of the Polish Episcopate, rabbis from Poland and Israel, representatives of the governments of Poland, Israel and the United Kingdom and representatives of local authorities and nongovernmental organizations.

US actor Dean Cain, a supporter of From the Depths, was the master of ceremonies: “I played a Superman – I’m here today coming to honor real-life super heroes,” he told the audience of some 300 people.

Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Israeli-Polish Friendship Caucus Hilik Bar was among those who delivered speeches.

“Here I am – the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, the grandson of a Polish Holocaust survivor, and the great-grandson of a Polish Jew murdered by the German Nazis, the father of two young, bright Israelis – standing here speaking to courageous heroes from another generation, from another time,” he said.

“Your generation in Poland fought and died for your freedom,” Bar said. “Your generation in Israel fought and died for our freedom. And it is the privilege of freedom, of liberty, combined with the courage to fight for it, which we must never take for granted,” he continued.

“And this is why, while we will be eternally grateful, humbled and inspired by the righteous among the nations who hid and saved Jews, the existence of the State of Israel has one important message to the world: Jews will never have to hide anymore.”

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