Switzerland: Polish Jewish WWII hero commemorated

Polish diplomats and members of Switzerland’s Polish and Jewish communities paid tribute to Abraham Silberschein – a pre-war Polish MP, who saved hundreds of Jewish people from the Holocaust by obtaining false passports.

During the commemoration at the renovated grave of Mr Silberschein at Geneva’s Jewish cemetery, the activities of the so-called Bernese Group were fondly remembered.

The group of Polish diplomats and Jewish activists in Switzerland illegally produced Latin American passports to save European Jewish people from Nazi atrocities.

At the event, Polish ambassador to Switzerland Jakub Kumoch said he owed Mr Silberschein an apology for the lack of interest shown in his story over the past 70 years, reported the Polish press agency – PAP.

Abraham Silberschein was born in 1882 in Lviv – in today’s Ukraine – then a city in eastern Poland. A lawyer by profession, he was a Zionist and a World Congress of Jews activist.

Three weeks before the outbreak of WWII, he left Poland for Switzerland, and during the war years he ran the Geneva-based RELICO Jewish rescue committee in cooperation with Polish mission in the city.

Most holders of the fake passports managed to escape the Holocaust. He reportedly saved about 400 people.

Experts estimate that the Nazis exterminated at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

Mr Kumoch added that Poland had only recently begun to restore heroes to national memory, and remarked that he was probably the first Polish diplomat to visit the grave, reported PAP.