(JTA) – In an unusual gesture, the president of Poland published a long statement eulogizing a Holocaust survivor who was among a handful of people to have escaped the Nazi death camp at Sobibor in the country’s east.
Andrzej Duda published his 650-word eulogy of Filip Białowicz on the president’s official website on Friday. Białowicz, who died Aug. 6 in his home in Florida at age 90, was the last Polish Jewish survivor of the Sobibor camp.
“We are saying goodbye to an ardent advocate of mutual friendship and respect among nations, religions and world views,” Duda wrote about Białowicz. His death, Duda added, marks the passing of a “person who did much to ensure that the crime of the Holocaust forever remains a closed chapter of history. So that nobody, under no circumstances, experiences it ever again.“
Białowicz and his older brother, Symcha, escaped from Sobibor along with 300 other Jewish prisoners after staging a well-planned rebellion in which the death camp’s German guards were killed. Most of the prisoners were recaptured and killed, but the brothers Białowicz were among a few dozen who got away. Symcha Białowicz died in Israel in 2014.
Filip Bailowicz spoke frequently about the Nazi death machine and in 2010 published a memoir titled “A Promise at Sobibor.”
Duda added in his passionate eulogy, which was unusual both in length and tone: “It is with utmost reverence that I reflect upon his involvement in the community, his lectures, meetings with the youth, his multiple visits to Poland. I admired his deeply wise and balanced view of the past and present of Jews, Poles, Germans, Americans, and last but not least, of the entire humanity who, until today, dwells on the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths Holocaust commemoration group in Poland, called “this extraordinary gesture” by Duda “heartwarming.” Daniels said the eulogy, addressed to Białowicz’s family, is “symbolic of President Duda’s continued efforts to bring the Jewish and Polish nations closer.”