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, a famous writer of children’s books, amongst other works, also ran an orphanage in Warsaw before the war started. Then, in 1940, his orphanage was forced to move with all other Jewish people to the Warsaw ghetto. Janusz went with the children.

He had opportunities to leave the ghetto. The resistance wanted to help him escape. But 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 they were taken to Treblinka, an extermination camp. “You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this,” Janusz said. 

After boarding the train to the extermination camp, he was never heard from again.

Amongst his many writings, Janusz wrote, “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: