Last May, in the JHI Archive we finished works on the assessment of the archival units of the Department of Documentation of Yad Vashem Distinctions. Up till now, only personal folders of certain individuals applying for a honorific „Righteous Among the Nations” were available for the readers. Currently, at the disposal of researchers, are organizational records of the department, including an extensive correspondence concerning the previously unknown cases.
Why was the Department of Documentation of Yad Vashem created in JHI?
As it is known, the title of „Righteous Among the Nations” has been awarded since 1953 by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem to those who during the German occupation carried aid to the persecuted Jews, saving them from the Holocaust. Matters related to awarding the Poles with Yad Vashem were tackled through the Israeli embassy in Poland. However, in 1967 Poland broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, making it impossible to continue those activities. Situation became more relaxed only 11 years later, when on the occasion of the 35th
anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising came to Poland delegation from Yad Vashem, which awarded the Poles with the medals. The ceremony, widely discussed in the media, contributed to the increased interest in the title, which in turn resulted in plenty of correspondence addressed to various agencies and institutions in the country. The letters eventually found their way to the Jewish Historical Institute, which in 1979 undertook the task of preparing applications of Polish citizens for the title of „Righteous Among the Nations” to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
The work was entrusted to Michał Grynberg, an employee of JHI’s archive. His duties included correspondence with the interested, gathering documentation on the subject of carried aid and contacting Yad Vashem. There were so many matters to deal with that in 1986 a separate Section of Yad Vashem Distinctions was established in JHI, employing a few people, and later the Department of Documentation of Yad Vashem. It functioned till 2004. The documentation gathered in it includes the accounts of both: the rescuers and the rescued, thereby providing an excellent source for the study of Polish-Jewish relations during the war.