A MAJOR exhibition on the many ordinary Polish people who rescued Jews from the Nazi terror during the Second World War was opened in Limerick City and County Council’s corporate headquarters on Merchant’s Quay last week.
Hosted by Limerick Museum, the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ exhibition was organised by the Janusz Korczak’s Saturday Polish School in Limerick and the Limerick branch of the Military Unit of Jozef Pilsudski Strzelec.
The exhibition title is taken from the ‘Righteous Among the Nations” Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust and are given official recognition by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. According to Yad Vashem, Poland has the largest number of ‘Righteous Among the Nations”, with 6,700, representing one quarter of the total.
Many of these Polish rescuers risked their own lives and often did not survive their sacrifice. They were both lay and clerical who saved children and adults, providing them with shelter, food and false documentation.
Stating that around three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Nazis between 1941 and 1945, Mayor Stephen Keary said that the exhibition illustrates how many ordinary Poles sheltered, assisted and rescued Jews during this terrible era.
“This exhibition is a description about solidarity, courage, and outstanding heroism, death, survival and remembrance of the Holocaust”, he added.
Limerick Museum Curator Dr Matthew Potter said they were delighted and proud to work with the Polish community in Limerick to mount this important exhibition.
“For 400 years, Poland was home to the world’s largest Jewish community who were granted rights like nowhere else in Europe and even had their own autonomous legal system. As a result, three-quarters of the world’s Jews lived in Poland, which became known as the Jewish Paradise.
“In 1939, that paradise became hell when the Germans invaded Poland. During the Second World War, one-fifth of the Polish population, six million Poles were killed, of whom half were Jews,” he explained.
Dr Potter highlighted one example of heroic Poles who helped their Jewish neighbours, that of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma who lived in the village of Markowa in South-east Poland. In 1944, they were sheltering eight Jews when they discovered by German police. The Jews were murdered first and then Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were shot.
Their six children, aged from eight to two years old, began to scream at the sight of their parents’ bodies so they were also shot. Wiktoria Ulma was expecting another child that was due to be born just days before the execution.
The exhibition will continue until June 8. Opening times are from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and entry is free.
Read more community stories here.