The world premiere of the English edition of “The Ładoś List” in London

February 25, 2020

Polish wartime diplomats in Switzerland in cooperation with Jewish organisations attempted to rescue between 8,000 and 10,000 Jews from Holocaust by providing them with fake Latin American documents, a new research study published by Warsaw-based Pilecki Institute reveals. The English-language version of  “The Ładoś List”, enriched with the life stories of over 50 people, was released in February under the patronage of the World Jewish Congress. The Pilecki Institute presented it in London, at the Wiener Holocaust Library on February 24th. There were 4 fantastic speakers during the event:

  • Dr Jakub Kumoch, the Polish Ambassador to Switzerland who “discovered” the Ładoś group and initiated the research. Editor of The Ładoś List.
  • Monika Maniewska, a historian and archivist from The Pilecki Institute, co-author of The Ładoś List.
  • Lord Daniel Finkelstein, a British journalist, politician and a former executive editor of The Times. His mother and grandmother and aunts were saved from Bergen-Belsen by holding a fake Paraguayan passport issued by the Ładoś group.
  • Professor Bob Moore of Twentieth-Century European History at the University of Sheffield.

At the premiere there were present also Professor Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish Ambassador to the UK, Professor Antony Polonsky of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University and Roger Moorhouse, a historian and author of the “First to Fight: Poland’s Defensive War of 1939″, nominated to the “British Army Military Book of the Year”.

“This little-known story of rescue deserves to be better known and I welcome this English translation. It should be read by all those interested in the Holocaust and in Polish-Jewish relations during the Second World War”, said Antony Polonsky, Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Brandeis University and Chief Historian at the Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw. A list of 3,253 names of Jews who were in possession of so called ‘Ładoś passports’, named after the Polish ambassador to Switzerland in 1940–45, has been published by the Institute, after a two-year research study conducted together with the Jewish Historical Institute, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

The full index of names is available online (please click here).

The paper reveals that between 24 and 45% of Jews who were in possession of Polish-forged documents of Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti and Peru, managed to survive the Holocaust. Several dozen of them are still alive.

“The real number of the survivors is much larger. We estimate that the Ładoś group contributed to the rescue of between 2,000 and 3,000 people”, the study’s editor Dr. Jakub Kumoch said.

Research conducted has shown that the Ładoś Group helped Jews from various European countries, however the majority of the identified passports were used by people from occupied Poland and the Netherlands. “As regards the documented group of survivors, the majority were Jews from Poland, the Netherlands and Germany”, explained Monika Maniewska, an archivist from the Pilecki Institute and one of the co-authors of “The Ładoś List”.

“The Ładoś List” was originally published in December 2019 and since its premiere in Poland, a lot of readers  came forward to confirm and complete the data.

The published list contains the names of, for example, several famous fighters of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, including Zivia Lubetkin and Yitzchak Zuckerman, as well as leaders of Jewish resistance from Slovakia, France and Italy. One of the thousands of people who had Ładoś passports was also Mirjam Finkelstein, mother of Lord Daniel Finkelstein – British politician and associate editor of “The Times” (Lord Finkelstein told his family story during the event in London).  Another documented case is that of Anne Frank’s best friend Hannah “Hanneli” Goslar.

Lord Finkelstein learned that many years before the war Aleksander Ładoś had been schoolmate of his paternal grandfather. He was surprised by this extraordinary story. He talked about his mother, grandmother & aunts who were saved by the group Ładoś:

Ambassador Ładoś, who during the German occupation of Poland represented the London-based Polish government in exile, authorised his diplomats to fabricate documents of third countries in an attempt to help rescue at least part of the country’s 3,500,000-strong Jewish community.

Ładoś passports were meant to protect their holders from being sent to the German Nazi death camps. The passports were sent to citizens of a dozen European states who were interred in concentration camps and ghettoes in occupied Poland and the Netherlands.

Almost half of the passports and citizenship certificates of Paraguay were forged by Ładoś’s vice-consul Konstanty Rokicki and a minor part by his deputy Stefan Ryniewicz and in both instances, with noticeable help of the Embassy’s Jewish employee Juliusz Kühl.

Other documents, passports and certificates of Honduras, Haiti and Peru, were purchased, with authorisation by Ładoś, by two Jewish members of the Ładoś Group – Abraham Silberschein and Chaim Eiss. In 1943, the whole operation received the support of the Government of Poland which pressured Latin American states to recognise these fake documents for humanitarian reasons.

Director Kozłowski said during the Polish premiere of the book that although 3,253 names had been established, some 5,000–7,000 are still missing. “We sincerely hope to receive the help of Jewish communities worldwide to find out the identities of these additional people.  We believe that there is no further possibility to identity any other names by archival research. During the last two years the authors have done really very much. Now it’s time for the families of survivors and victims to tell their story”.

The list has been uploaded at Pilecki Institute’s website. 

Author: Maria Byczynski and The Pilecki Institute

Pictures: British Poles

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