Thursday, August 02, 2012
August 5th, 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the murder of Janusz Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children of the Warsaw Ghetto, in the Treblinka Concentration Camp.
Dr. Henryk Goldszmit, who was known by his pen name Janusz Korczak, was born in Warsaw, and was a writer, journalist, and distinguished educator. Before the Second World War, Dr. Korczak ran orphanages, children's boarding schools, and summer camps, and was a prolific writer and lecturer in colleges and universities.
Ceremony at the original Korczak memorial, 1967. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Korczak memorial pillar.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
According to his philosophy, childhood is not a preparation for life, but an integral part of life itself. Korczak believed that every child must be given rights and respect according to his or her uniqueness, talents, and needs, and not placed into one-dimensional categories.
During the Holocaust, Dr. Korczak continued to care diligently for the orphans in the Warsaw ghetto, and strove to continue their normal daily lives and education. Korczak was offered freedom to leave the ghetto and move to the Polish side of the city, but he refused to save himself and would not leave the children who were in his care.
Stefa Wilczynska, who ran the orphanage together with Korczak, also refused to leave Poland at the time of the Nazi occupation, and was transported to the ghetto together with Korczak and the children. On August 5th 1942, Dr. Janus Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, the staff of the orphanage, and the children were all transported to the Treblinka concentration camp, where they were murdered.
KKL-JNF has taken part in the events commemorating Dr. Janus Korczak for many years. Many of these events are held at the Janusz Korczak and Stefa Wilczynska Memorial
, which was established by KKL-JNF in the Polish Jews' Memorial Forest
with the help of contributions from the Friends of KKL Sweden
. The memorial is a sculpture of the throne of King Matt that is depicted in Korczak's children's stories.
Commemorating Dr. Janus Korczak in the Polish Jew's Memorial Forest.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
KKL-JNF established the Polish Jews' Memorial Forest in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. After the memorial was established within the forest, the KKL-JNF played an important role in making the monument an active memorial site, and the annual ceremony marking the deportation of Janus Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children to Treblinka is held at the site. The events are held in cooperation between the KKL-JNF, the Korczak Association, Yad Vashem, and the Hamahanot Ha'olim Youth Movement.
The close connection between Janus Korczak and the KKL-JNF began 100 years ago. Korczak was closely affiliated with the Zionist movement, but was unable to fulfill his dream of making Aliya to Israel. Despite this, Korczak played a role in creating the groundwork for KKL-JNF. One example of his activities was a letter signed by Korczak calling upon the Jews of Warsaw to contribute to KKL-JNF:
"By contributing the cost of a single day of work for the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, we demonstrate our connection to the Land of Israel. A day of work does not merely have material value, but moral value as well. It expresses our solidarity with our brethren who are building a Jewish homeland with the sweat of their toil. Building the Jewish yishuv (agricultural settlement) that is promoted by the activities of KKL-JNF is a fulfillment of the ancient commandment in the Torah that 'The Land must never be sold, because it is Mine.' The Land of Israel must be the property of the entire Jewish People."
Dr. Janusz Korczak's educational philosophy stated that nature and the forest must play an integral part in nurturing children and young people. This idea is synonymous with the educational values of KKL-JNF.