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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Poles saving Jews during World War II

  |   "Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations" - President of the Republic of Poland. (photo by Krzysztof Sitkowski / KPRP) "Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations" - President of the Republic of Poland. (photo by Krzysztof Sitkowski / KPRP) "Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations" - President of the Republic of Poland. (photo by Krzysztof Sitkowski / KPRP) "Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations" - President of the Republic of Poland. (photo by Krzysztof Sitkowski / KPRP) "Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations" - President of the Republic of Poland. (photo by Krzysztof Sitkowski / KPRP)

 Participants of the state decorations awarding ceremony
to Poles saving Jews

in World War II

 

Ladies and Gentlemen!

 

Today`s ceremony pays tribute to Poles saving Jews in World War II. We wish to commemorate millions of victims of the Holocaust and all those who opposed the terror of German Nazis, putting their own lives and the lives of their families at risk by helping their neighbours.

 

For one thousand years the Republic of Poland was a hospitable home for Jews – the land of Polin. Our nations lived in one country. We were fellow citizens and neighbours, although we differed in our confessions and in the languages we spoke.

 

Today we are the heirs to our common Polish-Jewish history and the successors to the Republic of Friends, which was the birthplace of a number of eminent representatives of the Jewish Nation, such as the recently deceased former President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres.

 

The aggression of Nazi Germany put a dramatic end to the common history of Poles and Jews. In 1939 the Republic of Poland lost its independence and became subject to the Nazi occupation. In the enslaved country Germans strived to break up solidarity among the citizens of the Republic of Poland. On our soil, they established death factories and started to carry out the Holocaust – the most horrific of crimes in human history. In Poland any help to Jews was punishable by death. But against all odds, solidarity prevailed. Just like stars in the darkness of the occupation, the deeds of Poles were shining bright, of Poles who decided to help their Jewish neighbours, though that help often came at the cost of death of both: those saving and those saved.

 

Poles saving Jews grew to be the heroes in the time of war, equal to the Home Army soldiers and to all members of the Underground Movement, who through their armed struggle and clandestine civilian activity put up resistance to the occupiers.

Today, on behalf of the Republic of Poland I wish to pay tribute to all Poles saving Jews. I bow my head to your bravery and courage. You repeatedly had to make a number of unimaginably tough decisions. I want to thank you, with all my heart, for the fact that in the period of Nazi bestiality, risking your own lives, and often also the lives of your families, you stood up to defend those fundamental human rights which were denied and distorted by Nazi Germany: the human right to life, the right to dignity, the right to freedom. Before World War II, the Second Republic of Poland was the guardian of that order and of those rights. During the occupation, it was you who took over the responsibility for the life and security of your Jewish fellow citizens.

 

Today the Republic of Poland is honouring you with high state decorations. This is the symbol of pride in the meritorious stance adopted by Poles saving Jews, thanks to whose contribution our nation emerged with dignity from the night of occupation. This is also the sign of appreciation for those involved in the commemoration efforts of those extraordinary, heroic deeds. I am referring first and foremost to the Polish Society of the Righteous Among the Nations, who have disseminated knowledge about Poles saving Jews for thirty years to date. At the same time, the ceremony today appreciates, in a symbolic way, also all those Poles whose names are unknown to us, and who were saving Jews from the Holocaust in World War II.

 

Once again, let me thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your extraordinary testimony which, I am firmly convinced, is going to be passed on to future generations of Poles as a proof of the Polish-Jewish brotherhood and solidarity, as well as an evidence of heroic faithfulness to the truth and goodness.


With kind regards,

 

Andrzej Duda

 

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