Four medals "Righteous Among the Nations of the World" were awarded last Wednesday in Wroclaw. The recipients included Maria Packowska, Jan and Emilia Paliniewicz and professor Rudolf Weigl. The medals were received by the families of the honored heroes.|
"The did what they thought was just in their own and God's eyes," said Beth Eden-Kite, the counsellor of the Israeli embassy to Poland during the ceremony at the Warsaw Synagogue under the White Eagle.
During the war Maria Paczkowska lived in a small village in eastern Galicja near the town of Ilanczow. Lola Gruder along with her four children found shelter in her house. The family was hiding in her house, sometimes in the attic and in the barn. All of them managed to survive.
The Altsztetter family of five survived thanks to Jan and Emilia Paliniewicz. Before the war Jan Paliniewicz was one of their workers in Zbaraz. Initially the Jewish family was hiding in the woods, where Jan and Emilia brought them food, medicines and clothing. Later the Altsztetter family was hiding in the attic of their farm. Wladyslaw, the son of Jan and Emilia, managed to find the Altsztetter family in the USA. He was the one who contacted Yad Vashem and asked for a medal for his parents.
Professor Rudolf Wiegl, a famous biologist and the inventor of the formula for the typhus vaccine spent the war in Lvov, where the Germans forced him to manufacture the vaccine for their soldiers. In his apartment Wiegl managed to conceal a scientist of Jewish decent; the vaccines from his institution, smuggled into ghettos in Lvov and Warsaw, saved the lives of many Jews. Former coworkers, who currently live in Wroclaw, created an informal society of Former Weigl colleagues. Thanks to their efforts one of Wroclaw streets was named after "their" professor. And now the professor joined the ranks of the "righteous".
The "Righteous among the nations of the world" medal is the highest distinction a non-Israeli may receive. The Yad Vashem Institute of National Remembrance in Jerusalem gives this title to people who - while risking their own life and the life of their families - disinterestedly saved Jews during World War II. The medal was awarded to almost 19 thousand people, including about six thousand Poles.