Polish diplomacy organised one of the largest actions to help Jews during World War II, according to the recent publication by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), titled "Facing Extinction. The Polish Government in Exile and the Jewish Case 1939-1945". The volume contains over 550 documents showing the systemic and massive nature of this aid.
The purpose of the publication was to broaden the current perspective and document a specific fragment of the activity of the Polish government in exile by focusing on the diplomatic and consular service or assistance provided by the offices of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.
"Until now, scientists and researchers have focused on individual people, events or aspects, without, however, showing the full spectrum of activities undertaken by the government, including primarily its diplomatic and consular services" said the historian, editor of the volume Piotr Długołęcki from PISM.
"The collection of documents from many domestic and foreign archives in one volume made it possible to demonstrate that the wide-ranging aid effort was not incidental, but was one of the most important aspects of the Polish government's policy in exile," he added.
"As a result, this publication, together with the documents it contains, shows that the everyday life of the Polish official was not talks in the Kremlin or in the White House, but helping thousands of refugees,” Mr Długołęcki pointed out.
The overwhelming majority of documents included in the volume have not been published so far, and the vast majority of them have not yet been used by historians.
The collection include, among others, information about the extermination of the Jews, which contain dramatic, shocking testimonies of the ongoing murder. This includes a letter from the Minister of the Interior of July 1942 to a member of the National Council on the situation of the Jewish population in occupied Poland (with attachments), in which appendices describe the extermination of Jews in the Chełmno-on-Ner camp.
There are also appeals of the Polish government to stop the extermination of Hungarian Jews in the final months of WWII and a suggestion of retaliatory measures against the Germans. The volume also includes reports of the Polish diplomat in Lisbon - one of the most important escape routes for the Jews from Europe.
In the collection, one can also find documents of propaganda and legal nature, as well as forged papers, all of this aimed at helping Jews.
The extermination of Jews, also known as the Holocaust, committed during WWII by the Germans and supported to a varying degree by the Axis allies, was the biggest mass genocide in the history of mankind. Holocaust researchers assume that as part of the operation referred to as the so-called the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, nearly six million Jews were murdered; one fifth of them died in the Auschwitz German concentration camp, now Oświęcim, southern Poland.