Open letter from the families of those “Called by name” - Instytut Pileckiego


Open letter from the families of those “Called by name” as part of the 2nd Meeting of Families.

                                                                                 Warsaw, 25 September 2021

Open letter from the families of those “Called by name” as part of the 2nd Meeting of Families


We, the families of those “Called by Name”, Poles murdered by Germans for helping Jews, gathered at the 2nd Meeting of Families, would like to speak.

We are glad that the “Called by Name” project continues to function and develop, and that our community is being joined by new families from across the country that were otherwise forgotten and alone in their grief. It is a great joy that the stories of our parents, grandparents and relatives, their bravery and solidarity with people under persecution, are gradually becoming part of the common memory of the Second World War.

In the face of German terror, the actions of our loved ones were completely unique. We wish that no one experience the dramatic moral choice they faced. The righteous act of helping another human being in danger of death meant risking the life and health of one’s own family: wives, husbands, children. This decision was all the more difficult because it was made anew every day. For days, weeks, and even months – for as long as the threat persisted. Our families painfully experienced how real and tangible that threat was.

The Germans ruthlessly applied collective responsibility. In this way, they destroyed the local community, severed ties between neighbors, fueled distrust, and sought to alienate victims. Individual families and entire villages lived in constant fear and danger. Fear for loved ones and the uncertainty of the future were overwhelming. In view of this, the smallest gesture of help for Jews – every impulse of humanity – became a heroic deed.

Some of our loved ones, as well as the Jews they were hiding, were killed as a result of denunciation. Terror and fear brought tragic results. We emphasize, however, that denunciation does not hold all the inhabitants of a village or town responsible. It is an individual matter. We do not blame entire local communities for the deaths of our ancestors, much less all Poles. The victims and perpetrators are always specific, and we cannot stoop to collective responsibility.

At the same time, we remember that the responsibility for creating an area of violence and lawlessness in occupied Poland lies with the Third Reich. The German perpetrators – the direct murderers of our loved ones and the Jews they tried to save – have for the most part escaped punishment and remain anonymous to this day.

We are aware that there are still families in Poland who faced experiences like ours. We encourage them to contact the Pilecki Institute. Let us “Call them by Name”, because those heroes deserve our memory!