The launch of an exhibition honouring Irena Sendler, one of the Righteous Among the Nations, was held at Westminster, with Lili Pohlmann, a Holocaust survivor and friend of Ms Sendler, paying tribute to “a great humanitarian.”
The event was held in conjunction with the Polish Embassy, the UK’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Learning from the Righteous children’s Holocaust educational charity.
Ms Sendler, who died in 2008, saved over 2,000 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto and was declared Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel.
Antony Lishak, chief educational consultant to Learning from the Righteous, described how the charity was “delighted to be focused on the story of Irena Sendler, an iconic rescuer.
“The exhibition will travelling the length and breadth of Britain, at the heart of hundreds of workshops, and has already been used in schools, town halls community centres, exhibition spaces and synagogues.”
Robert Halfon MP, who hosted the event, described himself as “very proud to be here today.
“Poland is alive with Jewish culture… there are Jewish festivals in Krakow and Warsaw, they’ve looked after the Jewish synagogue, the Jewish museum is extraordinary. I’ve been told by Polish friends that it has become trendy to be Jewish.”
When asked about the recent pronouncements by the Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, about “Jewish complicity” in the Holocaust, Mr Halfon replied that “the important thing is what is happening in practice, not what one individual may say at a certain time. And I think actually that for the most part Poland is recognising the positive Jewish contribution and trying to commemorate the tragedy that happened with Jewish people.
“I think it’s better to look at actions, not words.”
Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish ambassador to the UK, hailed Ms Sendler as a “remarkable woman… an iconic figure of Polish righteousness and resistance.
“The Polish parliament has declared 2018 ‘the year of Irina Sendler’. Her brave acts and remarkable heroism make her a national hero and a wonderful role model.”
With regard to the Polish Prime Minister’s comments, Mr Rzegocki told the JC: “The most important thing is that we are focused on the facts and we want to have a free debate about history and we want the history to be better known, especially in Western countries.
“Because unfortunately Poland was not present in the discussions during the Communist times, so that’s why it’s so important now for us.”
Ms Pohlmann described her “many wonderful years” of friendship with Ms Sendler.
“If she were alive today and knew where she was being commemorated and celebrated, she wouldn’t have believed it possible.”