How a Fake Jewish Countess Saved Thousands of Poles During the Holocaust

Born in 1905 to a well-to-do Polish-speaking Jewish family in what was then Austria, later Poland, and now Ukraine, Janina Spinner studied mathematics and philosophy at a university, married her fellow student Henry Mehlberg, and then began a career as a teacher. With the arrival of the Nazis, the two sought a way to disguise their identities. Shira Li Bartov writes:

They fled with the help of Janina’s family friend, Count Andrzej Skrzyński, who promised to procure them false papers, jobs, and a place to live in Lublin. Transformed into Count Piotr Suchodolski, Henry got an agricultural job that allowed him to keep a low profile. But Janina—now Countess Suchodolska—was not content to evade death narrowly.

Without revealing that she was a Jew, Janina began working with the Polish underground, managed to negotiate with the Nazis for the release of almost 10,000 non-Jewish Poles from concentration camps, and arranged to bring food into Majdanek for Polish inmates. The Germans did not, however, allow any leniency when it came to Jewish prisoners:

Her efforts to help Jews were solitary and confined to the margins of her bureaucratic labor. She knew that Jews lived together with Poles at Majdanek and that each compound’s kitchen fed prisoners from the same cauldrons. As she strove to deliver more and more food into the camp, she held onto hope that it would enrich soup fed to all the prisoners, staving off starvation for thousands of Jews alongside Poles.

After World War II, Janina and her husband . . . immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago, where she taught mathematics at the Illinois Institute of Technology and he taught philosophy at the University of Chicago. She wrote her memoir shortly before her death in 1969.

Here life is the subject of a new book titled The Counterfeit Countess.

Read more at JTA

More about: Holocaust, Holocaust rescue, Polish Jewry

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship