Jan Jagielski, photo by Grzegorz Kwolek
Jan Jagielski was born on October 13, 1937 in Toruń. He was a social activist, author of publications on the traces of the historical presence of Jews in Poland. A graduate of geochemical studies at the University of Warsaw, for 30 years he worked as a researcher at the Industrial Chemistry Research Institute in Warsaw. From 1991, he was an employee of the Jewish Historical Institute, for many years as the head of the Heritage Documentation Department.
From 1981, he actively participated in the care of places and monuments related to the culture and history of Polish Jews. He co-founded the Social Committee for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries and Monuments at the Society for the Protection of Monuments. Since 1994 he was the chairman of the Management Board in the Committee. He initiated the action of restoring Jewish cemeteries in small towns and chaired the Foundation of Eternal Remembrance established in 1993 on the initiative of the Polish government.
Winner of numerous awards: Taube Foundation Irena Sendler for his contribution to the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland (2009), the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta awarded by President Lech Kaczyński in April 2008 for achievements in discovering, collecting and disseminating the truth about the Holocaust, Jan Karski and Pola Nireńska Award in 2005 for outstanding services to the protection of material traces of Jewish historical presence in Poland and publications on this subject, as well as the Silver Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis in 2015.
– Sometimes, people living in Israel bring me old photos, from before the war, which someone from their family gave them. In such cases I ask them to also show photos of the next generations. And sometimes I manage to complete a set of photographs of even five or six generations, which has a special meaning – that it was not possible to murder, it was not possible to destroy the Jewish nation, the people – and that there are next generations. There is some optimism in that – Am Israel chaj – the people Israel is alive. – Jan Jagielski said to Ewa Koźmińska-Frejlak in an interview in 2005.
"Historia Żydów nie jest dla dzieci" (History of the Jews is not for children). Read a 2005 interview with Jan Jagielski (Polish language only)
Watch the short film "Honorowy Żyd" (The Honorary Jew; Polish language only)
authors: Małgorzata Siemiątkowska, Eugeniusz Brenda i Janusz Zieleniecki
collaboration: Ada Gąska