Alicja Mularska at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/ YAD VASHEM)
Israel's Holocaust center Yad Vashem held a ceremony on Tuesday to posthumously honor a Polish family that rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
The ceremony was held amid a dispute between Israel and Poland over a Polish bill that aims to criminalize claims of the nation’s complicity in the Holocaust, but for Yad Vashem it was one of many events of this kind held to honor Righteous Among the Nations of which it has recognized over 26,500 to date.
Righteous Among the Nations is the title given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
The Polish family honored on Tuesday were Sabina Perzyna, her husband Jan Dziadosz and their son Aleksandr Dziadosz. During WWII, the Dziadosz family lived in Modliborzyce in the Lublin district of Poland. According to Yad Vashem, they were known for helping people in need regardless of their religion or nationality. After Jan became seriously ill, Sabina offered Felek (William) Toytman, a Jewish friend of her son, Aleksandr, a job on their farm. When the situation of Jews became more precarious, Sabina convinced Toytman to go into hiding in the attic of her cowshed.
The Dziadosz family also hid Albert Spivak, a Jewish acquaintance from Modliborzyce. Spivak and Toytman stayed in hiding until they decided to join the partisans in the nearby woods, Yad Vashem related. However, they returned to the Dziadosz farm for help on several occasions. After the war, Toytman and Spivak emigrated from Poland. Toytman kept in touch with the Dziadosz family and visited them in 1975, but eventually the two families lost touch.
On 5 June 2017, Yad Vashem recognized Sabina, Jan and Aleksandr as Righteous Among the Nations.
Director of the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem Irena Steinfeldt presented the medal and certificate of honor to Alicja Mularska, the daughter of the late Jan Dziadosz and Sabina Perzyna and sister of the late Aleksander Dziadosz.
"Out of the four children of Sabina and Jan, only I am still alive," remarked Mularska, who travelled to Israel for the first time ever in order to attend the ceremony. "But there are still nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren. I would like them to remember that in every situation, the ability to sacrifice and help another depends on us and the values we hold dear - and nothing can stop us from behaving as human beings," she said. A representative from the Polish Embassy, First Secretary Piotr Kozłowski, also attended the ceremony.
Yad Vashem began its project to pay tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations in 1963.
"Attitudes towards the Jews during the Holocaust mostly ranged from indifference to hostility. The mainstream watched as their former neighbors were rounded up and killed; some collaborated with the perpetrators; many benefited from the expropriation of the Jews property," reads Yad Vashem's description of the project. "In a world of total moral collapse there was a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values. These were the Righteous Among the Nations."