June 8, 2017

Warsaw church named ‘House of Life’ for helping Jews


The Roman Catholic All Saints Church in Warsaw, which provided help to Jews in World War II during the Nazi German occupation of Poland, has been recognized as a “House of Life”.


A ceremony to unveil a commemorative plaque in the church on Wednesday was attended by representatives of the government and Jewish organizations, Catholic Church leaders, the diplomatic corps, and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

The Church of All Saints, which is located within the perimeter of what was the city’s Jewish Ghetto during World War II, provided wide-ranging assistance to Jews.

Help for fleeing Jews

It issued false baptismal certificates to hundreds of Jews who decided to escape from the ghetto, offered meals and accommodation on the parish premises and placed Jewish children in an orphanage set up in a Warsaw suburb in a house that belonged to the family of the parish priest, Father Marceli Godlewski.

In 2009, Father Godlewski was posthumously awarded a Righteous among the Nations medal from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.

Samuel Tenembaum, the son of the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, said during the ceremony that after the Nazi German invasion of Poland, Father Godlewski could not stand idly by and “provided shelter and food to Jews within the walls of this church, even though he realized that offering any kind of assistance to Jews was punishable by death.”

‘Darkness could not defeat it’

“Life has its headquarters in this church and darkness could not defeat it,” he said.

In a letter to participants in the ceremony, President Andrzej Duda described Poles who risked their lives to help Jews as “the nation’s heroes”.

The House of Life project is an initiative by the Wallenberg Foundation, named after a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews while serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest in 1944.

Its goal is to identify and mark sites across Europe (mainly churches, convents, and monasteries) that served as shelters for the victims of German Nazi persecution and extermination during World War II.

The inscription on the plaque reads: “This building served as shelter to innocent people who were persecuted by the Nazis. The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is proud to declare this site as a House of Life in tribute to rescuers who upheld the values of solidarity and civic courage in accordance with the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg.”