06 August 2018
Tomorrow, 7 August 2018, marks the 76th anniversary of the deportation and murder of Janusz Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska and the children of their orphanage, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka. Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is commemorating the day with a special academic symposium on the subject of respect, love and equality for all people and of all ages – in the spirit of the philosophy heralded by Korczak.
Following the educational portion of the day, a memorial ceremony will be held at 16:00 at Janusz Korczak Square. Members of the Hamahanot Haolim youth movement will then fly dozens of kites in the spirit of Janusz Korczak's unique educational worldview. A representative from the Polish Embassy in Israel will also participate in this event.
“Just as the sea gives a child a toy - a boat - so the wind has to give him a kite.”
Janusz Korczak, The Religion of the Child
Marking the anniversary, Yad Vashem uploaded a short biographical video featuring the story of Janusz Korczak and his revolutionary philosophy to its website. The video supports the International School for Holocaust Studies' online educational material chapter on the subject.
Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, a Polish-born doctor, author and educator. Born in Warsaw to an assimilated Jewish family, Korczak dedicated his life to caring for children, particularly orphans. He believed that children should always be listened to and respected, and this belief was reflected in his works. He wrote several books for and about children, and broadcast a children's radio program. In 1912, Korczak became the director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. When World War II broke out in 1939, Korczak first refused to accept the German occupation and heed their regulations (consequently spending time in jail). However, when the Jews of Warsaw were forced to move into a ghetto, Korczak refocused his efforts on the children in his orphanage. Despite offers from Polish friends to hide him on the "Aryan" side of the city, Korczak refused to abandon the children.
Korzcak's right-hand assistant at the orphanage was Stefa Wilczynska. The two had met in 1909, and when Korczak was recruited to fight in the First World War, Wilczynska remained in charge of running the orphanage in Warsaw. In 1935, she visited Eretz Israel and lived at Ein Harod before returning to Warsaw in 1939. After the Nazi occupation of Poland, the members of Ein Harod arranged for her to leave the country, but she turned it down and moved to the ghetto along with Dr. Korczak and the children.
On 5 August 1942, during a two-month wave of deportations from the ghetto, the Nazis rounded up Korczak, Wilczynska and the 200 children of the orphanage. They marched in rows to the Umschlagplatz gathering point, with Korczak in the lead. He and Wilczynska never abandoned the children, even to the very end. Together they were sent to Treblinka, where they were all murdered.