The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in eastern Poland. / KUL.
Lublin, Poland, Dec 8, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).
A university in Poland will host a center for the study of Polish Catholics and Jews who saved lives under Nazism and communism.
The development was announced by Father Mirosław Kalinowski, rector of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in eastern Poland.
“In the coming weeks, the Center for Research on Poles Saving Jews and Jews Saving Poles during the Second World War and under communism will be set up at the Catholic University of Lublin,” he said.
The center will consist of an independent research unit within the structures of the university, known by its Polish initials, KUL.
“Publications on mutual assistance between Poles and Jews in times of totalitarianism have already been written, but there is a need for a comprehensive approach to this issue, using scientific methodology and with in-depth research,” Kalinowski said.
“These are fundamental issues in the history of both peoples in the 20th century. Our university will take up these issues, also in response to requests that we receive.”
More Poles have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, than any other national group.
Before the Nazi German invasion in 1939, Poland had the largest Jewish community in Europe, numbering about 3.3 million. Only around 10% survived the Nazi occupation.
Yad Vashem estimates that “about 30,000 to 35,000 Jews, around 1% of all of Polish Jewry, were saved with the help of Poles and thanks to the devotion of Righteous Among the Nations.”
Wiktoria Ulma with six of her children. The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II.
The Nazis executed hundreds of Poles suspected of helping Jews. Among those killed were Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, along with their six children, after they were found to have helped eight Jewish people in Markowa, southeast Poland, in 1944.
Since 2018, Poland has held a National Day of Remembrance for Poles Saving Jews Under German Occupation on March 24, the day that the Ulma family was massacred.
After the Second World War, Poland was governed by an oppressive communist regime until 1989.
Kalinowski said that the Center for Research on Poles Saving Jews and Jews Saving Poles would work with other organizations in Poland and abroad, translating its publications into English and Hebrew.
“We want the results of the center’s research work to reach young people as well, hence new communication technologies will be used, so that the way of conveying information is in line with contemporary trends,” said the university rector.
“One of the first projects will be a multimedia Encyclopedia of Poles Saving Jews and Jews Saving Poles, published in traditional and online versions.”
He noted that the initiative is backed by Bishop Rafał Markowski, chairman of the Polish bishops’ committee for dialogue with Judaism.
Members of the Jewish community will be invited to sit on the center’s scientific and program boards.
The Catholic University of Lublin was founded by the Polish bishops in 1918. It was shut down during the Nazi occupation and many of its professors and students were executed.
In 1954, Karol Wojtyła, the future John Paul II, began to lecture on ethics at the university. He was appointed to the Chair of Ethics in the university’s Department of Christian Philosophy, forming a link to the institution that lasted until he was elected pope in 1978.
He visited KUL in June 1987, giving a speech in which he said that academic institutions were called to “build up a community of people free in the truth.”
Months after the pope’s death in 2005, KUL adopted its present name: the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.