Israelis dance with Polish saviors at former courtroom of Auschwitz commander


(JTA) — Some 30 Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust attended a dance organized for them by Israelis at a Warsaw venue where the commander of the Auschwitz death camp was put on trial.

From the Depths, a group established in 2014, held the dance Sunday for the Polish Society of the Righteous among the Nations at the auditorium of the Polish Teachers’ Union, which on March 11, 1947, saw the opening of the trial of Rudolf Hoess. He was sentenced to death and hanged three weeks later.

“We selected the venue because of its symbolic importance, but the activity was not a political statement but part of our commitment to try to give back just a little bit to these people,” said From the Depths’ British-Israeli founder, Jonny Daniels.

Roughly 6,500 Poles have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations — the highest number of any country. Fewer than 300 of them are still alive.

At the event, Daniels danced to 1930s music with several righteous, including Anna Stupnicka, a member of the association who helped hide three Jews in her apartment and smuggled food into the Warsaw Ghetto, and Alicia Schnepf, secretary of the society and mother of Ryszard Schnepf, Poland’s ambassador to the United States. Also present was the Israeli soccer coach Avram Grant, who is on the board of From the Depths, and Polish officials as well as Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari.

“I don’t know the Foxtrot so well so I was hesitant about partaking at first, but my dance partners eased me through it,” Daniels said.

The event was part of several commemorations led by From the Depths in Poland this week, including ceremonies honoring Jan Zabinski, a late director of the Warsaw Zoo who, along with his son and wife saved hundreds of Jews, and General Władysław Anders, a Polish resistance fighter who also commanded the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a force known as Anders’ Army — a militia that fought alongside the Allies.

More than 10,000 Jews served in Anders’ Army. Anders gave his Jewish soldiers, including Begin, permission to demobilize and go to pre-state Israel after World War II.

The ceremony honoring Zabinski was attended by Sir Eric Pickles, the British government’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, and co-hosted by Anders’ daughter, Anna Maria Anders, who is a Polish senator and the country’s secretary of state, a title equivalent to deputy minister.

“My father always spoke highly of his Jewish brothers in arms and was immensely proud that he was able to play a part in saving so many and bringing them to their promised land of Israel, including a young solider, Michesław Begin,” she recalled, using the late Israeli leader’s Polish first name.

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