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Holocaust Remembrance Day event reflects on Jewish and Polish history

"There's no history of Poland without Jews, and there's no history of the Jews without Poland. That was true then and it's true today."
polish rescuers presentation
Posted at 10:16 PM, Jan 26, 2023

FRANKLIN, Wis. — On the Eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Polish Center of Wisconsin and the Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) came together to reflect on a shared history.

"There's no history of Poland without Jews, and there's no history of the Jews without Poland. That was true then and it's true today," said Vice President of Polish Heritage Alliance Thomas Radoszewski.

Much of that history includes art, science, literature, and food. But it also includes the atrocities of the Holocaust. Auschwitz, the largest German Nazi concentration camp, was located in German-occupied Poland.

"I think it's very important that we come together for an event like this to explore different aspects of Holocaust history," said HERC Community Engagement Manager Michael Morris.

Morris was the featured speaker at Thursday's event. His speech highlighted some of the "rescuers" during the Holocaust. And while rescuers were most definitely few and far between, a majority of them were Poles. The extreme heroic actions of those rescuers saved Jewish lives.

Those rescuers are known as the Righteous Among the Nations. A database through Yad Vashem tracks and shares the stories of rescuers and the rescued.

"The story that interested me the most when doing my research is a man named Leopold Socha," Morris said.

According to Morris, Socha was a municipal worker in Lwow, Poland (today the city is Lviv, Ukraine).

"He actually helped hide 21 Jews in the Sewer system in Lwow during the war. Ten of the 21 survived," Morris said of Leopold.

Educational events like the one held at the Polish Center are a core part of HERC's mission, and it's as important as ever as antisemitism is on the rise in Wisconsin and across the country.

A recent audit from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which HERC is a part of, reported a 459% increase in anti-semitic incidents around the state from 2015 to 2021.

"With the rise in antisemitism and other forms of hate, we think that education is the answer. So we're very dedicated to our mission to educate the state."

HERC provides teacher training on how to teach about the Holocaust and provides lesson plans that are in line with Wisconsin education standards.

The Polish Center also recognizes just how important continued education is.

"Often there's misunderstandings between Jews and Poles, and I'm not saying it's exclusive to Poles, but I think the only way we're going to understand each other is through programs like this," Radoszewski said.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is on Jan. 27, the day Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945.

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