from THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS
HOLOCAUST REMEMBERANCE DAY
A kick in the face for helping a Jew
Flushing, N.Y., February 22, 2011... It was hard to realize that the elderly and attractive Polish lady speaking at New York City's Queens College observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day once had her face disfigured by a kick from a German SS guard while she was a prisoner in a World War II concentration camp.
Wanda Wos-Lorenc was only 16 when it happened. Even to this day, she considers herself very lucky because it could have been a bullet instead of a boot. That was what so many Polish Christians who tried helping Jews were likely to get from the Germans.
Why a kick in the face? After all, all she did was to break off a piece from a loaf of bread and toss it to some hungry Jewish prisoners who walked by the kitchen where Wanda was ordered to work.
One of them begged her for food. It was a risk for her to give it and she knew it. To prevent it from looking too obvious, she threw them a piece of the loaf. Otherwise, she would have thrown them the whole loaf.
The German SS woman went into a rage when she spotted Wanda’s act of mercy, knocked her down and began kicking her.
The students in the audience and guests from various ethnic groups were captivated by her story. She was sharing her memories with them because the purpose of that evening was to "never forget."
Israel's Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem honors those who aided Jews with the designation, "Righteous Among the Nations." More Poles are described this way than anyone else. More Poles were killed while rescuing Jews than anyone else.
A technicality prevents Wanda from such a recognition. Whatever help may have been offered, Yad Vashem requires that the Jewish beneficiary must verify and confirm such help really took place. The Jewish prisoners who caught the bread she threw kept walking on and were never heard from again to confirm what Wanda did.
The same holds true for Wanda's brother, Ordon who was a member of the Polish underground resistance, Armia Krajowa.
In April, 1943 when the Germans were liquidating the Warsaw ghetto and murdering the Jews inside it, his Polish unit attempted to blow out a hole in the ghetto wall to let the Jews escape. Ordon was almost killed in the process. One of his buddies was.
Like with Wanda, there was no Jewish survivor around to verify what he did and to nominate him to Yad Vashem as "Righteous."
Despite these rigid rules, Poland is the country with the largest number of individuals who hold this title. If those like Wanda and Ordon were counted, as well as those Polish Christians who were killed while attempting to save Jews, the number would be much larger.
All this even though Poland was the only country in all of occupied Europe where the Germans ordered an automatic death penalty for anyone who helped a Jew.
Nonetheless, the benevolence and compassion of the Wos family has not passed by unnoticed. Four other members of this devout and noble Catholic family are honored as "Righteous."
Wanda's parents (now deceased) and her brother Paul earned the honor by helping 12 Jews escape from the Warsaw ghetto and then hid and protected them until the end of the war.
Yad Vashem also honors her brother-in-law, Michael Madejski as part of the Polish Scout Troop Zoska which liberated the German concentration camp Gesiowka at the height of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (The Rising) and set free 350 Jews.
Mr. Madejski, Wanda and her brother Paul are members of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress whose objective is to provide accurate information about Poland’s role in World War II.
"Nowhere else is Holocaust history as distorted and as misrepresented as it is about Poland," is its official statement.
Someone many consider to be a leader of a "Hate Poland" campaign is Prof. Jan T. Gross who will appear at Queens College in May to promote another book of his. Unfortunately, the college was given some promotional material to use in its announcement which long ago has been discredited.
In February, 2002, the Polish American Congress sent a "truth squad" when Gross appeared in New York to promote a book which claimed the Polish residents of Jedwabne, Poland burned down a barn with 1600 Jews inside.
The "truth squad" brought along an elderly man who stunned Gross when he got up during the question and answer period and told a jam-packed auditorium he was in Jedwabne as a boy and saw what happened. He said it was the Germans who torched the barn and no Poles took part. It was a 100% German action.
When the "truth squad" attended subsequent Gross lectures, Gross apparently learned something from his confrontation with the Polish eyewitness. He now will consider answering questions only when submitted beforehand and in writing. He did not care to reply to any written questions from the "truth squad."
His unfounded accusations showed up again in a recent interview he gave in Poland. Gross reportedly claimed Polish people rescued Jews for the sake of monetary reward and many got rich from it.
Wanda Wos does not intend to return to Queens College for the Gross lecture and "sit there and listen to someone like him blame Polish people like me for what the Germans did or for taking money for a piece of bread."
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