Yad Vashem marked on Thursday 69 years since the deportation to Treblinka of Janusz Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children of their orphanage, from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, a Polish-born doctor, author and educator. Born in Warsaw to an assimilated Jewish family, Korczak dedicated his life to caring for children, particularly orphans. In 1912 he became the director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. When World War II broke out in 1939, he refused to accept the German occupation and heed the Germans’ regulations and abandon the children.
On August 5, 1942, the Nazis rounded up Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska who worked with him, and the 200 children of the orphanage. They marched in rows to the Umschlagplatz with Korczak in the lead. He and Stefa never abandoned the children, even to the very end. Korczak, Wilczynska and the children were sent to Treblinka, where they were all murdered.
One of the speakers at Thursday’s ceremony was Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, Poland’s Ambassador to Israel, who said, “From [Korczak’s] actions we know that the most important thing in his life was to respect another human being, no matter his religion or race.
“Korczak always treated his children like individuals and he did not want them to be without the only father they had,” she added. “That very day when he took his kids to the Umschlagplatz showed the world what it means to be courageous and what it means to love.”