The Polish Jewish doctor and writer Henryk Goldszmit, who published under the pen name Janusz Korczak, was for the Nazis a mere statistic, as he perished in Treblinka concentration camp in 1942. But his memory lives on, not just in his books, but for the way he championed the rights of the child, long before that became fashionable. It was only in 1989 that the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child — since ratified by every member state of th UN except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States — but Korczak had long before articulated what he identified as the mistaken way many adults treat children — indeed he promoted the idea that there are no children, only people. He studied medicine and worked for an Orphans’ Aid Society in Warsaw. Posthumously, he gained huge renown in his native Poland but also around the world, and 2012 was declared by the Polish government to be the Year of Januscz Korczak. This week, at Europe House, the London headquarters of both the European Commission representation and the European Parliament office, an exhibition celebrating his life and work opened — admirably muted but very effective — with the assistance of the Polish Cultural Institute. It doesn’t matter that 2012 is over as the legacy remains. Moreover, the true insignifance of dates is underlined by the fact that no-one is quite sure in which year Korczak was born, 1878 or 1879; his lawyer father took a long time to register the birth and the exact details are lost in the mists of time. Korczak’s writings — translated into humrous languages, notably his children’s stories, are his most important testament, but he left many maxims as well, which reflect his noble character. Notably he wrote, despite all that happened to him in the Warsaw Ghetto before transportation to Treblinka, “I bear no malice toward anyone. I am unable to do so. I do not know how.”
Posts Tagged ‘Warsaw Ghetto’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 2nd January, 2009
‘There is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip,’ Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in Paris yesterday, ‘and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.’ I imagine the Germans said the same thing about the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. I wonder how Ms Livni squares her statement with the recent verdict of the UN’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, that ‘Israel is commiting a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defencless population — attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for several months.’ At least 60 of the approximately 400 fatalities so far in the Israeli assault have been Palestinian civilians, including children, but apparently for Tel Aviv they do not matter. They’re not Jews.
I deplore the rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants and it is essential that some mechanism be found whereby these can be stopped. But turning Gaza into an enormous ghetto and then bombarding it, as Israel has done, is not the solution. It can only make things worse. I applaud the fact that several human rights groups inside Israel have called on the government to ease the blockade — for example, by allowing a resumption of the supply of industrial diesel, so hospitals and other vital institutions can function normally, thereby reducing yet more unnecessary deaths. And I welcome the fact that in Israel, it is possible for such human rights groups and dissident voices to exist and to speak out.
However, the Israeli government is quite clearly commiting a war crime against the civilian population of Gaza and needs to be brought to book. Tzipi Livni and other political leaders who aspire to be Israel’s next Prime Minister must realise that, surely? Which invites the question, are they evil or just stupid?