Janusz Korczak and his children

“He told the orphans they were going out into the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”

Janusz Korczak portrait, taken circa 1930
Janusz Korczak, circa 1930

Then he walked with them, “his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots.”

Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Warsaw before the war started. Then in 1940 his orphanage was forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. Janusz went with the children.

He had opportunities to leave the ghetto. The resistance wanted to help him escape. He chose to stay, to be with the children, to be with them to the end, to that day in early August of 1942, when he had to convince the SS men to let him go with the children to Treblinka, an extermination camp.

“I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.”

This was Janusz Korczak.

Notes:

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Click here to read a snapshot biography of another Holocaust hero, Corrie ten Boom.

“Janusz Korczak and his children” sources: Portrait taken in Warsaw, Poland, circa 1930 – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Miedzynarodowe Stowarzyszenie im. Janusza Korczaka / Wikimedia Commons / “He told the orphans…” quote: Jerzy Waldorff, Władysław Szpilman, The Pianist. Page 96. / “I exist not be…” quote: Warsaw Ghetto Memoirs of Janusz Korczak / “His head bent…” quote: Ghetto eyewitness, Joshua Perle – Nick Shepley (7 December 2015). Hitler, Stalin and the Destruction of Poland: Explaining History. Andrews UK Limited. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-78333-143-7 /