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Polish Righteous Among the Nations To be Honored at Yad Vashem Sunday

07 October 2008

Wladyslaw Panczyszyn, Righteous Among the Nations from Poland, will be posthumously honored at Yad Vashem, on Sunday October 12, 2008, for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. A memorial ceremony will take place in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, followed by the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at 11:20, in the presence of Carmella Ben Natan and Avi Schweitzer of Israel, children of the late survivor Rosa Schweitzer, Irena Gorniak of Poland, daughter of the late Righteous and the late survivor, Helena Reinharz Panczyszyn, a representative from the Polish embassy, family members and friends. The medal and certificate of honor will be presented to Irena Gorniak on her late father’s behalf by Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Department of the Righteous Among the Nations.

The events are open to the press in coordination with the Media Relations Department: 02 644 3410.

The Rescue Story

Wladyslaw Panczyszyn was born in Lubaczow, Poland, to a large family. His parents bought a home in Drohobycz, in Galicia and the family moved there. In 1939, Wladyslaw married his Jewish neighbor, Helena Reinharz.

In 1941, the Germans captured the area where Wladyslaw was living and the murder of the Jews began. Wladyslaw began to work in any way possible to help the Reinharz family. He would enter the ghetto to give the family money and food, ignoring the danger to his own life. When the ghetto was destroyed, the only surviving members of his wife’s family were her sister Rosa and a brother who was in hiding elsewhere (to whom Wladyslaw had been providing food). Helena’s parents and a younger sister were murdered.

Wladyslaw decided to take action to save his sister-in-law, Rosa. He smuggled her into his home and hid her in a hole under the floor. But hiding Rosa placed the Panczyszyn family in danger from all sides, not only from neighbors, but also from close family members. Wladyslaw’s sister-in-law, his brother’s wife, strenuously objected to his marriage to a Jewish woman, and the family feared that she would inform on them.

As the risk to the family increased, Wladyslaw, Helena and their 2-year-old daughter, Irena, moved to Boryslaw. Once there, Wladyslaw placed his daughter in hiding with a colleague from work, while Helena and Rosa hid behind a wall that was built in a storeroom near their home. Soon after, Wladyslaw built a new hiding place in the attic of his home. One day a fire broke out in the Panczyszyn’s kitchen, attracting a great deal of attention and threatening the safety of the women’s hiding place. Feeling that she was endangering his life, Rosa wanted to leave Wladyslaw’s house, but he insisted that she remain. Wladyslaw hid Helena and Rosa for a year and a half, taking care of all their needs during that entire time.

Contact: Estee Yaari / Foreign Media Liaison / Yad Vashem