The Joint Polish-Jewish Effort to Save Hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust

Jan. 20 2020

In 1942 and 1943, diplomats from the Polish government in exile, together with Jewish activists, forged Latin American passports and certificates of citizenship for 3,262 Jews in the clutches of the Third Reich. Menachem Rosensaft tells their story:

The Bernese Group’s clandestine rescue operation was spearheaded by Konstanty Rokicki, a consul at the Polish legation in Bern, who acted with the full knowledge and support of Aleksander Ładoś, the Polish ambassador to Switzerland, and Abraham Silberschein, a former member of the Polish parliament, and was largely funded by the Geneva office of the World Jewish Congress through an organization called RELICO (the Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population) headed by Silberschein.

Rokicki, together with Juliusz Kühl, a Jewish attaché at the legation, bribed Latin American diplomats—[like] the honorary consul of Paraguay in Switzerland—to obtain blank passports, which Rokicki then proceeded to forge manually. Rokicki also obtained blank-signed letters from the honorary consul . . . stating that the recipient was a Paraguayan national.

Ambassador Ładoś oversaw both the operation and its cover-up, provided his fellow conspirators with diplomatic support, and convinced the Swiss authorities to turn a blind eye to the group’s efforts. Helped by Jews in Switzerland with contacts in various ghettos of Poland, including . . . Nathan Schwalb, an official of the World Zionist Organization in Geneva, the Bernese Group compiled lists of Jews for whom the forged passports or nationality letters could be created, and then arranged for the fake documents to be smuggled to the Warsaw Ghetto . . . and other locations in Nazi-occupied Poland. The other two key members of the Bernese Group were Stefan Jan Ryniewicz, the deputy head of the Polish legation in Bern, and Chaim Yisroel Eiss, a leader of the Orthodox Agudath Israel movement in Switzerland.

In most cases, the documents didn’t reach their recipients in time to allow for their escape. Rosensaft’s father was one such recipient, who in the end was sent to Auschwitz but managed, against the odds, to survive.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Poland, Righteous Among the Nations, Switzerland

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy