Documents from the Eiss Archive on exhibition at the UN Office in Geneva
The exhibition presenting the Eiss Archive was opened at the UN Office in Geneva. The unique collection of documents was acquired in August by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum thanks to the enormous commitment of the Polish diplomacy and support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
The Eiss Archive is one of the largest collections documenting the rescue activities of Polish diplomacy for Jews under the threat of the Holocaust. The Eiss Archive includes among others, eight forged Paraguayan passports, letters of persons to be rescued and the correspondence of Polish diplomats and Jewish organisations. Chaim Eiss was an orthodox Jewish activist and merchant who along with Polish diplomats and the Jewish activist, Abraham Silberschein created the Bern Group. The archive also includes an original list with several thousand names of Jews from the ghettos who in this way tried to rescue themselves from the Holocaust. The acquired materials also include a list of names of children from Warsaw orphanages.
The organisers of the exhibition are Permanent Representatives of the Republic of Poland at the UN Office in Geneva, the Auschwitz Museum and the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW).
“My family was among the holders of Paraguayan passports issued in Bern during the war by the Polish consul, Konstanty Rokicki. It saved their lives” - wrote Léonie de Picciotto, a representative of the ICWJ at the UN Office in Geneva.
The director of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz Museum, Andrzej Kacorzyk recalled the words of Pope John Paul II spoken in 1979 at the site of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. “Oświęcim is a testimony to war. This war brings with it a disproportionate increase in hatred, destruction, and cruelty. However, if there is no denying that it also reveals other possibilities of human bravery, heroism, patriotism, then the loss account prevails”.
– I have the honour to recall these words today, at the opening of the exhibition at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, paying particular attention to the words about human courage, heroism and patriotism. The collection of 122 documents of the Eiss Archive shows that the Polish diplomacy and people of goodwill were faithful to these values, engaging in the rescue of the Jews and citizens of the II Polish Republic - said Andrzej Kacorzyk.
The exhibition in Geneva will run until 1 February. Afterwards, the Eiss Archive documents will be transferred to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
The Bernese Group was an informal form of cooperation between Polish diplomats from the Polish delegation in Bern and representatives of Jewish organisations for the rescue of European Jews. Under the guidance of Ambassador Aleksander Ładoś, the group provided forged South American passports, among others Paraguay, El Salvador, Bolivia, Peru, Haiti and Honduras, which protected its owners from deportation to extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Poland. According to various estimates, a total of about 4 thousand such documents were issued. The number of those saved remains unknown.