Mr. Mariusz Bieniek is a teacher at Tadeusz Kosciuszko High School in Kraśnik, Poland. After delving into the history of the local Jewish community, he began to write articles on the subject and explore the history of the Holocaust. While participating in a 2010 seminar for Polish educators at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies, Bieniek came across a fragment from the diary of a survivor named Hania Pomeranc…from Kraśnik. "I could feel my heart beat stronger," recalled Bieniek. "It was no coincidence that among twenty-five educators from Poland, it was me who got the text about a Jewish woman from Kraśnik."
Hania Pomeranc was born in Kraśnik, 1910. She had seven siblings and her father worked as a carpenter. She married several years before the war and had three children by the war's beginning.
Following the invasion of Poland 1939, the Nazis set up a ghetto in Kraśnik and forced the Pomeranc family and the rest of the Jewish population inside. In 1943, the Nazis transferred her to the Budzyń forced labor camp, where they murdered almost her entire family. Against all odds, she survived Auschwitz, Majdanek and Bergen-Belsen. After being liberated by the U.S. Army, she stayed in the Mariendorf DP camp in Berlin until 1947. She paid her respects to her murdered family in Kraśnik and then left for an unknown destination.
After two years of searching, Bieniek acquired a copy of the survivor's memoirs and received approval for assistance from Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies. Adopting Yad Vashem's emphasis on the personal stories of survivors, Bieniek produced an educational booklet for high-schoolers on the life of Hania Pomeranc before, during and after World War II. Containing materials in Polish and English, the booklet includes entries from Pomeranc's diary, excerpts from her testimony to Yad Vashem, and a map and photos of sites connected with her life in Kraśnik. The finished product, Utracony Świat Hani Pomeranc, uses the individual survivor's story and an age-appropriate approach to teach older children about the Holocaust. The booklet served as the basis for a workshop meeting with Polish high-schoolers and their Israeli counterparts from Jerusalem's Dror High School.
Bieniek credits his seminar experience in Jerusalem as the inspiration for his pedagogical project. "Taking students to a Jewish cemetery to clean it up is still doing too little," he wrote. "As a graduate, I felt it was my moral duty to preserve the memory of the Holocaust in the community of Kraśnik." Yad Vashem lent its support to the project, which Bieniek will continue to use to teach Polish students about the Holocaust and introduce them to their Israeli peers. He is currently exploring the possibility of creating a documentary film about Pomeranc's life and will soon launch a website about for the project.