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Pole who saved Jews during Holocaust dies

by The Associated Press | June 22, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

WARSAW, Poland -- Jozef Walaszczyk, a member of the Polish resistance who rescued dozens of Jews during the Nazi German occupation of Poland during World War II, has died at age 102.

Walaszczyk died Monday, according to the Institute of National Remembrance, a Polish state historical body.

During the war, Walaszczyk fell in love with a Jewish woman, Irena Front, only learning that she was Jewish when German Gestapo forces searched a hotel where they were staying.

He helped her hide behind a wardrobe, and later arranged for her to get false documents and married her. Soon after that, Front and 20 other Jews were arrested by the Gestapo.

"If something was to be done, it had to be done for them all. I had to arrange for a kilogram of gold by 5:00 pm -- and it was already noon. Only then would the Germans forget about the incident and release the Jews," Walaszczyk recalled in an interview, according to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Walaszczyk managed to collect and pay the ransom, saving the lives of 21 people.

He also employed 30 Jews in a potato flour factory he had been tasked with managing due to his knowledge of the German language. Most of those he employed survived the war, according to the Polish state historical body and the museum.

Thanks to Front's efforts, Walaszczyk was honored in 2002 as a "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial and museum. The honor recognizes gentiles -- mostly Christians -- who saved Jews across German-occupied Europe during World War II.

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