The Eiss Archive to be transferred to the Museum
After nearly 75 years and a year of negotiations, Poland has recovered the so-called Eiss Archive, one of the most extensive collection documenting the rescue activities of Polish diplomacy for Jews under the threat of the Holocaust, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Bern, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum informed in a joint communique.
The Archive substantiates rescue operations conducted during World War II from Bern by the then Polish ambassador Aleksander Ładoś, his diplomats and the cooperating Jewish organisations. During these operations, several thousand illegally obtained Latin American passports were issued, thereby saving the lives of several hundreds of people.
- The duty of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage is to protect this part of Polish heritage, which is associatedwith the centuries-long presence of the Jewish community in Poland. Our duty was to retrieve the EissArchive - the irrefutable proof that Poles, the Polish nation, its representatives, systemically and institutionally were involved in rescuing Jews during World War II. The revisited and documented activities of the Polish diplomats in Switzerland at the time, can bean inspiration for historians, writers and film-makers, as well as creators of culture. I thank the Polish ambassador in Switzerland for the determination to recover the documents and to tell this story - one of many dozens, but probably the least known and long-forgotten. Today, we have the opportunity to remind the world about it - The Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński, said.
- The Collection includes eight Paraguayan passports forged by Polish diplomats to save Jews, as well as unique and unused photographs of persons applying for such passports. It also consists ofan original list with several thousand names of Jews from the ghetto; theytried to rescue from the Holocaust, and several documents, including correspondence between Polish diplomats and Jewish organisations. The collection also includes a list of names of children from Warsaw orphanages. These documents constitute a significantcollection, presenting, onthe one hand, the tragedy of Polish Jewish families at the time, and on the other hand efforts that were undertakento rescue as many people as possible from the hellish clamp of the Holocaust hovering over them - said Piotr M.A. Cywiński, PhD, director of the Museum.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Switzerland, Dr Jakub Kumoch gave a detailed explanation on the recovery of the collection. - Immediately after the publications on Ładoś and his diplomats, we managed to locate the EissArchive in a private family collection. It is a huge accomplishment of our honorary consul in Zurich, Markus Blechner, who has been working for nearly a year to obtain the collectionfrom the descendants of Chaim Eissand convinced them that its rightful place is in Poland, in institutions documenting the Holocaust and pre-war Jewish life - he said. The purchase of the collection was possible thanks to the support of the Deputy Prime Minister, Piotr Gliński, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. I would also like to thank the Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Polin Museums for their involvement and efforts to obtain this priceless collection. Their experts conducted a two-fold inspection of the collection- he added.
The Eisscollection constitutesdocuments discovered several years after the war, belonging to Rabbi Chaim Eiss(1876-1943). This Zurich merchant from Ustrzyk, one of the leaders of the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael movement, was a member of the Bern Group, which under the direction of the Polish envoy (ambassador) Aleksander Ładoś, forged Latin American passports to save Jews. Eissdealt with providing the Polish diplomats with a listof beneficiaries and smuggling of the forged passports to the General Government. This hero who committed himself to savevictims of the Holocaust died suddenly of a heart attack in November 1943. A part of his correspondence with the then consul of the Republic of Poland, Konstanty Rokicki, regarding the production of Paraguayan passports survived the war. In his correspondencewith Agudat Yisrael, Eissrepeatedly applauded the roles of Ładoś and Rokicki. It was on the basis ofhis account that Agudat forwarded a letter of gratitude in 1945 to Polish diplomats involved in this unique operation.
The documents of Rabbi Eiss along with one of his descendants ended up in Israel. Talks on their recovery began in summer last year. The collection will remain for a few months in Bern, where it will be exhibited. It will arrive in Poland early next year and enrich the collections of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, where the documents shall be subjected to conservation and thorough analysis by archivists and historians.