April 29, 2003

Janina Klein Dylag: Polish savior was honoured

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation paid tribute to Mrs. Janina (Juana) Klein Dylag, at the Buenos Aires’ Metropolitan Cathedral, in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto.

The decoration, a medal of the Polish resistance heroe and eyewitness of the Holocaust, Jan Karski (l9l4-2000), was presented to Mrs. Dylag by Mrs. Zosia Klawir, survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. Juana Dylag, along with her husband, was a member of the underground Polish army with the rank of Sergeant Major. Thanks to her actions, the lives of Felicia Erlich and her daughters, Danuta and Irena, were saved from Nazi persecution.

In l992 they received the honorary title of ”Righteous Among the Nations” , a distinction awarded to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Shoa.

Madam Dylag, who is Catholic, has lived in Argentina since l948, and was honored in her adopted country for the first time since her arrival almost 60 years ago.

The ceremony took place in the Chapel of the Virgin of Luján, next to the Mural remembering the victims of the Holocaust. The Memorial was inaugurated on 14 April l997 by the late Primate Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, and unveiled by former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Lech Walesa along with IRWF founder Mr. Baruch Tenembaum.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka of the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary; the Polish Ambassador to Argentina, Slawomir Ratawski; and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation volunteer and expert on Polish issues, Dr. Marcos Resnizky, spoke on the occasion.

Around l50 persons attended the meeting. Among other personalities Holocaust survivors Laszlo Ladanyi, Tomas Kertesz, Charles Papiernik and Jack Fuchs; community and education authorities; diplomatic representatives; non-governmental organizations and students of the Fatima Institute.

Following the ceremony, Mrs. Dylag was saluted by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

As Tenembaum announced along with Archbishop Renato Martino, President of the Commission of Peace and Justice of the Holy See, the Wallenberg Foundation rendered tribute to another Catholic Savior on the same day. In Syracuse, Italy, former Chief of Police of the city of Fiume, Giovanni Palatucci, was honored. The ceremony was organized together with the Mediterranean Institute of University Studies of Syracuse in the framework of the ”Study Conference in Honor of Giovanni Palatucci”, at the Palace of the regional province, with the patronage of the President of the Republic of Italy.

Palatucci was murdered in February of l945 at the age of 36 in the Dachau concentration camp after saving the lives of thousands of Jews and other persecuted people. He did so disobeying the directives of the racial laws of the Fascist State. It is worth mentioning that Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Bishop of the diocese of Rome, opened a cause for the beatification of Palatucci.


29 April 2003
Saybrook Point, Connecticut
Mr. Baruch Tenembaum
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

I would like to address a few words to the illustrious gathering at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires in lieu of actually being there.

I can not think of anyone more deserving the honour of being bestowed Jan Karski’s Commemorative Medal for her humanitarian efforts on behalf of members of the Mosaic on the 60th anniversary of the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto -in which my own father was murdered at the age of 39- than Mrs Janina Dylag.

Specifically hiding my mother in her apartment for a couple of years under the most daring circumstances, she endangered the life of her own mother, her brother and her sister, Halina Klein Tundak, as well as other relatives.

Several years ago, after presenting our testimonies, both the Klein sisters were bestowed the honorific title ”Righteous Gentiles”. Mrs Tundak, now deceased, also received a special recognition medal from the Polish Government.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to know that -even at this late stage when ”the survivors as well as their rescuers are becoming as extinct as bisons”- that Mrs Dylag will be officialy honoured for her heroism and ultimate sacrifice in the magnificent setting of that place of worship and symbol of Christianity, the religion she so warmly embraced and practices in her daily life.

I believe what it is written in the Talmud: ”Whoever saves a life saves the entire world”. It still rings true in the 21st century.

Congratulations, Janina, on this glorious day in your adopted country.

As I write this words, my heart swells with love and pride for having known you and your wonderful mother.

Irena Erlich Urdang de Tour