Did they risk their lives? Diplomats as Righteous Among the Nations | debate - Instytut Pileckiego



20.10.2021 (Wed) 18:00

Did they risk their lives? Diplomats as Righteous Among the Nations | debate

When considering the actions of diplomats during the Holocaust, should we use the same criteria that are applied to other rescuers? The debate will begin with a lecture by E. Saul, who's spent years researching the involvement of diplomats in aiding Jews.

The rescue operations carried out by diplomats have for many years been a challenge for organizations that honor and commemorate those who aided Jews during the Holocaust. Those diplomats worked under unique circumstances, sometimes in places beyond the reach of the German occupation, sometimes making use of their diplomatic immunity, and sometimes without ever having direct contact with the people they were rescuing. The aid they provided did not always bring upon them the immediate threat of death or other repressions; nevertheless, the diplomatic rescue missions often incorporated thousands of people and came with a great risk – the rescuers were forced to overstep the boundaries set by their own governments, and even had to bend and break international law.

When considering the actions of diplomats during the Holocaust, should we use the same criteria that are applied to other rescuers? This issue is made all the more current by the fact that institutes commemorating the righteous diplomats must often reconcile with the regulations used by other institutions that honor rescuers of Jews.

The debate will begin with a lecture by Eric Saul, who has spent years actively researching the involvement of diplomats in aiding Jews. He will speak about the scope and scale of the help they provided, and provide a focused overview of the contemporary efforts of institutions to commemorate their work. Next, experts will discuss the specificity of diplomatic rescue operations and the options for them to be taken fully into account in the work of institutions to commemorate and honor people who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.

The debate will be attended by Eric Saul; Monika Krawczyk, director of the Jewish Historical Institute; Prof. Mordecai Paldiel, former director of Yad Vashem’s Department of the Righteous. The debate will be moderated by Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, director of the Pilecki Institute.

The debate will be streamed online on the Pilecki Institute’s Facebook profile.


Wojciech Kozłowski

Doctor of Humanities, historian; he is the director of the Pilecki Institute, a research institution based in Warsaw, and the chief editor of its scholarly journal “Totalitarian and 20th Century Studies”. He holds Ph.D. in medieval studies from Central European University and M.A. in history from the University of Warsaw. He was a fellow at the New Europe College and a visiting scholar at the Department of History at Harvard.


Monika Krawczyk

Director of the Jewish Historical Institute since January 2021, attorney. In the years 2004–2019 was the Managing Director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage. From January to September 2019, she was the Chair of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, currently a member of the Union's Board. She conducted a number of projects concerning Polish-Jewish relations and the protection of Jewish heritage. In 2015–2017, she was a member of the Consultative Council at the Mazowieckie Provincial Conservator of Monuments, in 2014–2018 she participated in the work of the Social Council at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.


Mordecai Paldiel

PhD, historian, scholar of religion. The former Director of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sousa Mendes Foundation, and teaches the Holocaust as adjunct professor at Yeshiva University, New York. Born in Belgium, Dr. Paldiel and his family of six fled to France where they were aided by a Catholic priest to smuggle the entire family across into Switzerland. Dr. Paldiel is a leading authority on rescue during the Holocaust and has written a number of books. In 1991, Dr. Paldiel was the Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Holocaust Studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He received a B.A. from Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and an M.A. and PhD in Religion and Holocaust Studies from Temple University, Philadelphia. Selected publications: Whosoever Saves One Life, Saves an Entire World: The Women Rescuers of Jews in: Women Defying Hitler. Rescue and Resistance under the Nazis (2021); German Rescuers of Jews: Individuals versus the Nazi System (2017); Churches and the Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans and Reconciliation (2006); The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (1993).


Eric Saul

He was the founding curator of the Presidio Army Museum, San Francisco (1973–1986) and later guest curator at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles. In 1993, he founded Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project. He has curated exhibits on diplomatic rescue, military history, and civil rights, which have been shown in 200 institutions worldwide. He originated the Smithsonian’s exhibit, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the Constitution.

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