What Should a Pope have Known about Cracow?

We have heard many assertions that Karol Wojtyla was a kind and just man, and we clearly have the evidence of such statements to prove this is accurate. This is almost an adjunct, however, when some assert that this was especially so in his relationship to the Jews. Could there be an underpinning motive in now declaring that Pope John Paul II was a saviour of Jews? We know that Karol went to Wadowice School with Jews and a Jewish boy, Jerzy Kluger, who was amongst 2,000 Jewish Citizens of the Town of Wadowice was his closest friend. A lifelong friendship has ensued, despite the fact that Jerzy’s Mother, his Sister and his Grandmother having all been expelled from their homes to the ghetto, were later transported to Auschwitz. It must be remembered that Auschwitz was close enough to Wadowice for the town to capture the full scent, and even the rain burdened with the ash from the Kremas of Birkenau. The picture sets an idyllic scene, but what must have been known should have alerted more.

The fact that the Germans blew the town’s Synagogue to bits must have been known to Karol, and steadied his view of the German occupation. There is a rare photo, captured by a local inhabitant, who no doubt shared the evidence of the conflagration with all who wished to see? All of this however, cannot guarantee Karol’s anonymity from such close proximity to The Holocaust. Its ravages and the destruction of those very many Jews Karol had known from the town itself, could not be hidden from his view. It is essential therefore, if we are to accredit the late Pope with any righteous status, with regard to the Jews of The Holocaust, for us to know if indeed the late Pontiff knew what had happened to those, the now missing Jews of Wadowice?

It must be clear that Karol knew exactly what was happening to the Jews in Wadowice, as he and Mieczyslaw Kotlarcyzk communicated on a regular basis. Karol could not have failed to have been informed of the Ghettoisation and Transportation of Jews from his own community toward Auschwitz, even as he was in Cracow. A Survivor of the Ghetto has this to say of Karol:-

“..was one of those whose behaviour was model.” Zygmund Ehrenhalt.

We know too that while in Cracow, the University was closed under Nazi remit, Professors were caged and ‘resettled’ at Sachsenhausen and the sub-Camp of Oranienburg, and some were even shot. But the Jews of Cracow could surely not have escaped his attention as they filed past, carrying all their worldly goods, and pressed forward toward the Podgorce district and then later onto the transports to Auschwitz?

On Saturday 13th. March 1943, with the final days of the Cracow Ghetto upon us, Jewish eminence in the Town was ended. Many of the then-liquidated Jews were actually shot in the Zgoda Square. Also shot this day, was the town of Wadowice’s own Rabbi Seltenreich, a friend of the Kruger Family. Would Karol have not been informed of this massacre in Zgoda Square? Did Karol not see the slaughter at Zgoda for himself? When all is said and done we must consider how Karol resides in the memory of us as Catholics! Was the Pope a good Man? Undoubtedly he was one of our finest! Was he a Good Christian? By all acounts he was a very good Christian indeed!

Was he a great Man? Well if we are to posit this, we must consider what it is that makes some people great. Surely it is in their innate ability to make us feel good about ourselves! For me, there are too many questions which lie prostrate before the late Pope for that to be certain, just yet! For me also, would the below statement be therefore contrary to the considered opinion of the Jewish Community, after The Holocaust?

When the Germans began rounding up other than the Jewish People, and Polish men were sought for German enforced Labour, Karol took refuge in the Archbishop of Cracow’s residence. There was very good reason for those, like Karol, who held such staunchly Catholic beliefs, to remain hidden from Nazi zeal. However, some 2,647 Catholic Priests were confined to Concentration Camps throughout the Reich and even in the Death Camps of the Greater Reich, where many died. Hitler dealt with the Catholic Church with a contempt and a psychotic wish to wipe out all the precepts of Catholic influence throughout Germany and her new satellite states.

Karol himself remained underground, and within the confines of the Archbishop of Krakow’s residence, until liberation by the Russians had commenced and the end of the war had been finally confirmed. Within this period, an assessment of Karol Wojtyla’s righteous behavior toward the Jewish People, contests that he helped supply 50,000 Jews with false papers and hid some 2,500 Jewish Children throughout the Ministry of the Catholic Church in Crakow. In view of this assessment, Karol Wojtyla might well be considered a ‘Righteous Among Nations’ as he is now considered Saintly!

Some of the Murdered of Wadowice.

Alster, Josef

Aurbach, Rachel

Backer, Eliasz Eliahu

Becker, Bronia Bronia

Becker, Eliahu

Beckier, Rozalia

Beer, Bentzion

Better, Rywka

Bienenstock, Jakob

Bienenstock, Sara

Bienenstock, Jonas

Bienenstock, Eliezer

Bittner, Malka

Bronner, Salamon

Cisner, Mania?

Hofman, Tzipora

Kelin, Osias Yehoshua

Kel, Abraham

Klein, Pauline

Kleinman, Shimshon

Rubner, Gitel

Sheingut, Mikhael

Sheingut, Avraham

Sherfer, Rubin

Vaserteil, Tehila

Veinshtein, Aba

How many of these Murdered Jews of Wadowice did Karol Wojtyla know? For me it is an essential, that in knowing your Community, you know what happens from within that Community!

See also: http://www.auschwitz.dk/Kolbe.htm The ‘Saint of Auschwitz’