Friday, April 16, 2021

"If I Sleep For An Hour Thirty People Will Die"

I was asked why there was no April 15 post noting the 1500 people who died in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.

The reason was, I was thinking of the April 16 sinking of the MV Goya in 1945 with the loss of ~6500 - 7000 lives, making it the second deadliest maritime disaster in history, second only to the 9300 souls, half of them children, lost when the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk eleven weeks earlier.

So why didn't I post anything on the MV Goya?

Because fully 25% percent of the Jews killed in the six years of World War II, 1.47 million people, were killed in one bestial ~100 day period: August, September, and October, of 1942. 445,700 murders per month. What the Holocaust scholars refer to as Hyperintense Kill Rates.

And sometimes you can only take so much of the death and destruction before losing it.

Two Goya's per day for three months.

Ten Titanic's per day, every day for 100 days.

So instead we will tell the story of two forgers.

The first and more widely known is Adolfo Kaminsky, the man who spoke our headline and whose  work with the French Resistance forging identification and other papers saved 14,000 Jews.

The Jews via Yad Vashem have not declared him Righteous Among the Nations. They should.

The other hero in our post, and counterweight to the depravity of the Nazis, was the Polish Vice Consul in Berne Konstanty Rokicki.

From Tablet Magazine,"The Forger From Berne":

Between 1940 and 1944 a clandestine network of Polish diplomats and their Jewish partners in Switzerland created illegal Latin American passports that saved thousands of lives. Half of the documents were forged by one person—Polish Vice Consul in Berne Konstanty Rokicki.

Heinz Lichtenstern never considered himself Polish. When his hometown of ToruĊ„, or Thorn, famous for being the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, again became part of independent Poland in 1919, his family, like many other German-speaking Jews, opted to move to Cologne. Lichtenstern felt German, and there is no proof he ever spoke a single word of Polish.

Many years later, in 1944, Lichtenstern waited with hundreds of others on the ramp by the railway depot in Theresienstadt, selected for Auschwitz, while his grieving family stayed behind in the barracks. It was eight years since they escaped from the Third Reich to Amsterdam and four years since the Nazis found them in the Netherlands.

“Herr Offizier, I’m a foreign citizen,” he said. It was his last chance. “I have this.”

Lichtenstern, 37, produced a sheet of paper that read “Republic of Paraguay,” issued in Berne, Switzerland, by the consulate of the Latin American country. Such documents had appeared in Holland in 1943, smuggled into the country by resistance organizations from neutral Switzerland. They cost a fortune to obtain. Lichtenstern had never been to Latin America, did not speak Spanish, and probably hardly knew where Paraguay was.

Unexpectedly, the German took the document and vanished. He appeared again: “Where is the ‘Paraguayan’?” he shouted. Soon Lichtenstern was withdrawn from the transport and reunited with his family, holding a little paper in his hand: “Ausgeschieden 3911 412-XXIV/7 Lichtenstern Heinz 1907-4-14.” The other 2,499 “passengers” boarded the train and the vast majority were gassed.

What the Nazis didn’t know was that several thousand Jews from a dozen European countries had these incredible documents, too. Some of them registered themselves as foreigners in German-occupied Poland, many only to be murdered anyway. Others showed them in the transit camps of Westerbork or Vught in Nazi-conquered Holland, and instead of being transported to be murdered in Auschwitz, they were sent to Bergen-Belsen where their chances of survival were higher. Some were miraculously exchanged for German prisoners. A few tried to use these documents to cross the Spanish border. Like Heinz, many kept them and waited until the last moment, after they had exhausted all other chances for survival. Who forged these documents remained a mystery.

Many years later, in the summer of 2017, Lichtenstern’s granddaughter K. Heidi Fishman from Vermont, a Holocaust educator and writer, read an article in a Canadian newspaper about the diplomats who fabricated Paraguayan passports during the war and recognized something unusual—a picture in the article depicted documents that looked identical to her grandfather’s. Fishman had studied it meticulously while researching her book Tutti’s Promise. “One of the reasons, perhaps the only reason I’m alive is the Paraguayan passport,” says the book’s heroine, Ruth “Tutti” Fishman, Heidi’s mother and Heinz’s daughter. “All these passports have the same handwriting,” Fishman wrote in a letter to the newspaper.

When I became Poland’s ambassador to Switzerland in late 2016, local Orthodox Jews and our Jewish honorary consul, Markus Blechner, often told me that my embassy was something special, “a holy place” as one interlocutor put it. When Heidi and I met, I already knew the so-called Paraguayan passports had not been Paraguayan: While documents had been bought for heavy prices from a Swiss honorary consul of Paraguay, the hand that filled them out was Polish. I believed they were forged to rescue our citizens under German occupation. When I researched the list of passport holders, I did not know I would find citizens of at least 15 countries—and discover the identity of the forger....


The author of this piece, Jakub Kumoch, is the Polish ambassador to Turkey and previously served as the ambassador to Switzerland.

As the story mentions, in 2019 Rokicki was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem joining the largest national contingent, Poland's 7,112  Righteous, including the woman the Nobel Peace Prize Committee dishonored by giving the 2007 prize to Al Gore and the IPCC: 

In Memoriam: Irena Sendler

Madame Sendlerowa died May 12, 2008 in  Warsaw, Poland.
She was a tough broad.

As we've written over the years this woman saved 2500 children sometimes hauling one out of the Warsaw ghetto in a suitcase or a couple more under a caterers cart or a dozen in a truck. When the Nazi's caught and tortured her she came back to the saving-kids-biz despite two broken legs, broken ankles and broken arms.....MORE