WROCLAW, Poland, July 3 (JTA) — Poland’s choice of an Auschwitz survivor as new foreign minister has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Polish Jewish community.
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 78, was granted honorary Israeli citizenship, and made a Righteous Gentile by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
“He is an excellent choice,” said Stanislaw Krajewski, a member of the leadership of the Union of Jewish Congregations in Poland. “He has an unbelievable record in Jewish affairs.”
Bartoszewski was named last week to replace Bronislaw Geremek, who stepped down when the Freedom Union Party pulled out of the Polish government. Geremek, who is of Jewish ancestry, is a highly respected figure.
Bartoszewski served briefly as foreign minister in 1995. During his tenure, he created the post of special Polish Ambassador to the Jewish Diaspora as part of his decades-long commitment to improving relations between Poles and Jews.
As a young man during World War II, Bartoszewksi actively rescued Jews.
He survived eight months as a political prisoner at Auschwitz, where he was used as forced labor to build the camp complex.
Later, he joined the Resistance and took part in the bloody Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis in 1944.
Recently, he was named head of the Auschwitz International Advisory Council.
“We Jews have always had very good and close relations with him,” said Krajewski, who is the Poland consultant for the American Jewish Committee.
Krajewski added that Bartoszewski is “probably the only foreign minister in the world outside Israel who is a citizen of Israel.”