POLISH STUDIES ENDOWMENT COMMITTEE

Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews

Polish Heroes: Those Who Rescued Jews

January 15, 2009

Dr. Przemysław Chojnowski: Introduction

In the introduction to the keynote address by Ms. Stanlee Stahl,
Prof. Przemyslaw Chojnowski provided a brief history of the Jews in
Poland, from early medieval times to the outbreak of WWII in September
1939. Przemyslaw Chojnowski, PhD, is the 2008/09 Polish Studies
Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Stanlee Stahl: Challenges of the Rescuers and the Rescued

Ms. Stahl, Executive Vice-President of the Jewish Foundation for the
Righteous (JFR) in New York, attended Miami University in Ohio and has
graduate degrees in public health from George Washington University and
New York University. She has worked for the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services in the New York regional office and for the Community
Food Bank of New Jersey, developing its Extra Helping program. Ms.
Stahl’s mission is to keep alive the stories of courageous heroes who
rescued Jews and call attention to the good that a human being can do
when evil seems overwhelming and hope is lost.

She passionately
recounted the stories of “men and women who are just like us, ordinary
men and women, who, when the situation required, did extraordinary acts
— acts of kindness, acts of courage, acts of self-sacrifice.” The
Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which seeks to fulfill the
traditional Jewish commitment to hakarat hatov (appreciating the
good that is done to you), has two goals. The first is to repay a debt
of gratitude on behalf of the Jewish community to those non-Jews who
risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Currently, the
JFR provides monthly financial assistance to nearly 1,500 Righteous
Gentiles in 27 countries. The Foundation’s second goal is to preserve
the legacy of the rescuers through its national Holocaust education
program. Ms. Stahl ended her lecture with a question: would we risk our
lives daily as Irena Sendler did; what would we do in the face of evil?

The first lecture in the Polish Heroes, Those Who Rescued Jews,
exhibit and lecture series, sponsored by the University of Washington
Polish Studies Endowment Committee (UW PSEC), Consulate General of the
Republic of Poland in Los Angeles, and Washington State Holocaust
Education Resource Center, in cooperation with the University of
Washington’s Ellison Center, History Department, Jewish Studies Program,
and Slavic Department.