Yad Vashem refused to award the medal and title of Righteous Among the Nations to the Polish Catholic priest Ludwik Peciak, despite testimony provided by Amalia Sandberg-Mesner – a woman saved by the Pole during WWII.
According to Adam Henderson of the Yad Vashem press office in Jerusalem, the institute refused to decorate Reverend Peciak “because of insufficient evidence.”
This is not the first controversial decision made by Yad Vashem regarding the decoration of Poles who were saving Jews during the Holocaust. Recently, the institute denied Poland’s WWII Ambassador to Switzerland Aleksander Ładoś and his deputy Stefan Ryniewicz the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Both Poles, along with decorated consul Konstanty Rokicki, were members of the so-called Bernese Group that forged Latin-American passports, provided them to Jews in European ghettos saving hundreds of them from imminent death.
Saved by a priest
Similar scenario enfolded for 95-year-old Amalia Sandberg-Mesner who submitted her request to decorate Reverend Peciak. During the time of German occupation of Poland in 1942, the priest provided her, her sister Lola and cousin Jasia with names attested in fake baptism certificates. Thanks to the documents the Amalia and Lola were able to acquire identity cards and live in safety until the end of WWII with their friend Albin Thiel.
Upon Ms Sandberg-Mesner’s departure from Poland, she had to give away the documents, which have never been recovered later on.
Father Peciak’s fate was not that fortunate. On November 11, 1942, despite knowing about the planned German police clampdown, the priest allowed himself to be arrested. “I mustn’t abandon the parish, I have the right to lay my neck on the block for my sheep.”
From the Kolomyia prison, through the former German concentration camp of Majdanek, Reverend Peciak was transported to the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bawaria, Germany. It is there where he passed away on April 16, 1943.
Over 6,700 Poles received the Righteous Among the Nations title what makes them the largest national group decorated by Yad Vashem for saving Jews from the Holocaust.