Holocaust hero who died with orphaned children honored in Poland

Manager of an orphanage, Rabbi David Alter Kurzmann, chose to stand by the children until the bitter end.

May 29, 2019 16:54
2 minute read.
Holocaust hero who died with orphaned children honored in Poland

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS visit the site of the Auschwitz death camp, during ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the camp’s liberation and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Poland in January 2018... (photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)

A street in Krakow will be named in memory of a Polish Jewish leader who chose to stay and die with the children in his orphanage during the Holocaust.

Rabbi David Alter Kurzmann (1865-1942) was a successful businessman and philanthropist who managed the finances of the Jewish children in an orphanage in Krakow. He was well known for donating to charitable causes, and also promoting Jewish education. When the Nazis invaded Poland, they forced the orphanage to be relocated to a ghetto, later transporting all the children to the Belzec death camp.

Kurzmann was offered an opportunity to be sent to a different ghetto, but chose to stay with the children. He, his wife, daughter, son-in-law and teachers were executed along with 300 children in the death camp.

In 2017, Walkative! – a walking tour guide service – gathered hundreds of signatures to honor his memory.

“Back then we were celebrating our 10th anniversary and we wanted to thank Krakow for being both our workplace and our passion,” said Walkative! board member Malgorzata Fus. “We decided to do so by commemorating the orphanage in the ghetto by placing a plaque in its last location, 41 Jozefinska Street.”

Fus noted that “David Kurzmann was a Krakovian, a Jew, a successful businessman, a teacher, a caretaker. History demanded him to make unimaginable choices, choices in the face of which it didn’t matter anymore whether he was a Krakovian, a Jew or a businessman. Today we commemorate a man who reacted to those choices exactly the way a good human being should,” said Fus in a statement before the Krakow City Council.

The initiative to honor Kurzmann was supported by the Jewish Community of Krakow, the Galicia Jewish Museum and the Jewish Community Center in Krakow. The Town Hall selected the appropriate street to be renamed, the District VIII Council of Dębniki approved the move, and the final decision was approval by the City Council. The ceremony will take place next month.

Kurzmann, a follower of the hassidic rebbe Israel Friedman of Chortkov, ran a metal and iron company and supported educational causes such as the Beis Yaakov school system for girls. Kurzmann was affiliated with the orphanage beginning in 1910, and ran its finances for 20 years, building it up to a successful institution. Its property was plundered by the invading Nazis.

In 2016, his grandson Marcel Kurzmann published a book about his life titled, They Were All His Sons.

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