Called by Name - Q&A - Instytut Pileckiego

Here you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Pilecki Institute’s flagship project.

1. Who are the “Called by Name”?
The “Called by Name” are Poles who were murdered by the German occupier during World War II because they helped Jews. Despite the fact that any kind of aid provided to Jews designated for annihilation was punishable by death in the territory of occupied Poland, these individuals took this risk and consequently paid the ultimate price. Their sacrifice was often considered pointless and for many years their fate was unknown even to the local communities. The “Called by Name” program aims to change that. The victims are being commemorated in a permanent manner through stones with inscriptions unveiled in the towns or villages where the dramatic events unfolded. Our broad informational campaign and educational projects serve to disseminate the knowledge about these tragic stories and cultivate universal values represented by the “Called by Name.” The program provides an opportunity to publicly “call by name” those who were killed, and restore their memory into our local and common knowledge of history after the decades long period when their fate was forgotten.

2. What makes the “Called by Name” different from the Righteous Among the Nations?
These two different projects complement each other. The Righteous Among the Nations medal has been awarded by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem since 1963 to people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. The application for the medal is mainly submitted by survivors. In the case of those who were murdered for helping Jews, such testimonies are rare because the people who were aided usually died together with their rescuers. The “Called by Name” project focuses on this latter group, which has never previously been honored. Only a few have been posthumously awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal. These are the Lubkiewicz family from Sadowne, the Krysiewicz family from Waniewo, and the Kazak family from Brzóza Królewska (their daughters, who also engaged in the aid, did not receive the Yad Vashem medal). In several other cases the applications were rejected because of a lack of Jewish testimonies (this was the case for the Posteks from Stoczek and the Andrzejczyks from Czyżew).

Another characteristic element of the “Called by Name” project its social significance – we focus on the relatives of the victims and on the way the tragedies impacted the local communities. Not only do we collect their testimonies, but we also integrate and animate the environment of the families of those “Called by Name” around the events involving the unveiling of the commemorative stones, which allows local experiences to become a part of common historical knowledge.

3. How do you select the people to be commemorated?
We discover the stories of the “Called by Name” during archival research. We analyze surveys, case files, lists that have been compiled concerning German repressions and postwar petitions available in archival databases in Poland and abroad. The key sources for us are the materials from the collection
of the Polish State Archives, the Institute of National Remembrance, the Jewish Historical Institute, Yad Vashem and Bundesarchiv, as well as register offices, parish registers and the memorial books of Jewish communities. We also explore the largest oral history databases. Archival research is always followed by field research involving interviews with eyewitnesses or the closest relatives of the victims, who often share their family mementos with us. A positive verification of the results of archival research is the basis for taking further steps concerning the commemoration of the victims.

4. What happens at a “Called by Name” commemoration, and who takes part?
A permanent form of commemoration is a stone, located in a public area, with a plaque dedicated to the “Called by Name”, established in cooperation with local governments. The commemorative events provide an opportunity for the families of those “Called by Name” to speak up on behalf of the victims and open up about their own difficult experiences. The unveiling of the stone also helps integrate the local communities, which attend the events in great numbers. Present at the ceremonies are representatives of state and local authorities, uniformed services, Scouts, school pupils, representatives of veterans’ associations, historical reconstruction groups, as well as local
societies and groups of activists. Especially moving moments during the ceremonies involve the unveiling of commemorative stones by the representatives of the “Called by Name” families and the prayers said by a Catholic priest and a rabbi or a representative of the Jewish community.

5. What else is included in the “Called by Name” project, except the unveiling of a commemorative plaque?
The “Called by Name” program involves the work of many people from the “Called by Name” Department of the Pilecki Institute, who are assisted by co-workers from other departments. In addition to the main commemorative events, we organize other promotional activities, such as an exhibition, brochures and educational workshops held at the commemoration sites and at the permanent exhibition at Warsaw’s Dom Bez Kantów. We integrate the community of the “Called by Name” families around annual meetings and animate the local governments by organizing a series of meetings and observing the National Day of Remembrance of Poles who Saved Jews under German Occupation. We continually develop our original goals and modify them in order to reach as much people as possible.

6. I know a story about people who were murdered for helping Jews. Can I pass it on to the Pilecki Institute?
Yes, we invite the family members of victims in particular to contact us. Each case will be thoroughly analyzed by our research team. If the analysis yields positive results, our researchers will contact the person who submitted the story, carry out further investigation and contact the victims’ family. This will allow us to record their testimonies and obtain materials from family collections.

Project content coordinator:

dr Anna Stróż-Pawłowska