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Nov 29, 2023

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Tombstone Unveiled In Poland
Honoring Consul Konstanty Rokicki

POLAND – On Tuesday 9 October, 2018 a new tombstone honoring Polish Consul Konstanty Rokicki was unveiled at a cemetery in Lucerne. He helped to save from the Holocaust more than 800 Jews in 1942–43. Polish President Andrzej Duda and several dozen survivors, their families and the rescuers’ descendants took part in the unveiling ceremony. Photo: J. Szymczuk

The ceremony started at 2 p.m. with President Duda laying a wreath at the renovated tombstone. Tribute to Consul Rokicki was then paid by the survivors, their families and descendants of the rescuers, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps, and the local Polish and Jewish communities.

Photo: J. Szymczuk
An unsung hero, former Polish Consul in Bern Konstanty Rokicki died in 1958. During the Holocaust, he forged more than a thousand Paraguayan passports, which helped save more than 800 people. He acted with knowledge and consent of his superior, Polish Ambassador to Switzerland Aleksander Ładoś, and his deputy Stefan Ryniewicz. They provided him with diplomatic protection and persuaded the authorities of the neutral Switzerland not to disrupt the illegal operation. He was also supported by his Jewish colleague Juliusz Kuehl, and by members of two Jewish organizations. Together they formed the Ładoś Group, which is also known as the Bern Group.

Jews from occupied Poland and the Netherlands who had Paraguayan passports pretended to be foreigners, and thus repeatedly avoided the fate of being sent to death camps. Instead, they were sent to internment camps and sub-camps. In this way many of the passport holders survived the war.

Photo: J. Szymczuk 
For years, the activities of Consul Rokicki were almost known. In 2017, the Polish Embassy in Bern announced that it found a note by Rokicki, whose handwriting matched that of Paraguay passports.

Initial research by the Pilecki Institute, supported by the Jewish Historical Institute, the Institute of National Remembrance, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, which cover the so-called Ładoś list, featuring the names of all Latin American passport holders, has found that the survivors identified so far include pre-war citizens of the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Austria, France, Slovakia, and other countries. At least twenty of them are still alive.

Photo: PolandMFA