The Righteous among the Nations dared unparalleled heroism during “‘the time of contempt.” The acted against the Nazi plan of extermination of the Jewish nation, risking their lives as well as those of their families. Fewer and fewer of them remain, and those who do may live in poverty and loneliness. Out of modesty or fear, they often do not acknowledge their own heroism. There are some 240 Righteous alive in Poland today. The youngest is 88 years old.
Few of them are healthy enough to take an active part in public life. 2016 is a very important date for the Righteous. In March there, a museum of the Polish Righteous was established. On June 5th, Pope Francis canonized Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish Righteous. Pope Francis also plans to meet Righteous Poles during his visit to Auschwitz. The Polish Association of the Righteous celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It is one of the last opportunities to meet them personally, to try to understand their motivation for such incredible sacrifices, and above all to show our gratitude. The Jewish Initiative for the Righteous would like to commemorate this jubilee year the festive way. We are organizing a series of ceremonies and meetings to commemorate the heroism of the Righteous. But more important than recognition and commemoration is an offer of concrete, material support.
As they reach the end of their lives, we want them to feel the same sense of care they gave those they protected. We want them to feel that their deeds were meaningful and worth their sacrifices. We must remember that many Righteous paid with their lives for their willingness to help the persecuted. They are the hope of this world. They saved not only our lives but also our faith in humankind.“If not them, we would remember the 20th Century only as time of smoke-filled chimneys and crematoria,” wrote Konstanty Gebert.
Many times I have faced the question: What is so exception about the Righteous? I am always bewildered. I was especially shocked after returning from the recent ceremony in Markowa. I saw the graves of the murdered, the Jews, and Ulma family. What the Ulmas did astonishes all who know their tragic story. A pious peasant family took into their care the Goldman family. They know the deadly risk. Denounced by a Polish collaborator, the Germans searched the farm, found the Goldmans ,and began their execution spree. The Jews and Joseph Ulma were the first victims. Joseph’s wife Victoria, heavily pregnant, went into labor. She was not spared. Their six underage children… I cannot, and do not want to continue this story.
It is hard to imagine this scale of self-sacrifice. So I am no longer surprised by such questions. I do not know how I would have acted – or would act – in such a situation. I am afraid I would fall short. But today I do not want to stand indifferent in the face of their sacrifice and such tragedy.
I also lost many relatives in Holocaust. Although I was born well after the war, I feel the sorrow and the void. This we cannot change. But we can do something for these magnificent people, and in this way commemorate our beloved dead. I would like to believe that our sentiments will reach them, and soothe them. According to Talmud, a single Righteous saves the world entire. The only thing we can do is to stand by them. Maybe doing so can heal the world a bit, together.
As the saying goes: Even the biggest journey starts with a single step. I began 10 years ago organizing small raffles. Now I am organizing an event on an international scale. I don’t know if I will succeed. But I have always gained satisfaction and personal pride from my work to help the Righteous. I hope that you will share in this wonderful feeling.
I appeal to you to support the Righteous. All profits from this event will go to the Righteous. A small part will finance planting a commemorative tree.
Our actions steer clear of politics. We do not engage in debates. And we categorically reject any instrumental treatment of the Righteous.
Our sole aim is their wellbeing.
Thank you for your support, and best regards,
Jewish Initiative for the Righteous