2021 – the Year of the Ładoś Group

‘Ładoś group’ also known as the ‘Bernese Group’

2021 is the year of the 80th anniversary of the start of the campaign to save Jews from the Holocaust by the Legation of the Republic of Poland in Bern, Switzerland. The year 2021 was designated the Year of the Ładoś Group by a resolution of the Parliament of the Republic of Poland.

The difficult times of war claimed the lives of millions of people. The Jews, as a nation, were persecuted even before the war. Growing anti-Semitic sentiment deepened after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Two years later, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated, and after the outbreak of World War II, the situation of Jews became even more tragic. The Germans began establishing ghettos and then extermination camps intended for the extermination of the Jewish population.

A group of Polish diplomats and Jewish activists rushed to help to save the Jews. It was headed by Aleksander Ładoś, a Polish envoy in Bern, Switzerland (in the years 1940-1945). The group also included Abraham Silberschein (the founder of the Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population – RELICO), Konstanty Rokicki, Chaim Eiss, Stefan Ryniewicz and Juliusz Kühl.

The ‘Bernese Group’ dealt with the so-called ‘Passport Action’. Polish diplomats managed to establish contacts with EU consuls of South American countries, including the honorary consul of Paraguay. Documents from South American countries were forged and delivered to people imprisoned in transit camps and ghettos throughout occupied Poland. Passports also went to the Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, and also to Jews from Germany deprived of citizenship. They were provided in blank, and they were mainly filled in by Konstanty Rokicki (the vice-consul of the Republic of Poland) and Stefan Ryniewicz. Abraham Silberschein and Chaim Eiss smuggled personal data and ready-made passports between Bern and European countries. Aleksander Ładoś used his position in Bern to protect the group’s activities, which were held in strict confidence from the Swiss government, and to prevent it from being uncovered by the local police. Juliusz Kühl took care of securing contacts between Jewish organizations and the Polish Legation, and provided letters and blank forms. The oldest found passport dates from 1940 and was issued to the family of doctors, Maria and Henryk Goldberg, as citizens of Paraguay. Documents were prepared for individuals and entire families.

In 2019, a list of 3,262 people who received passports issued by the ‘Bernese Group’ was published under the editorship of Jakub Kumoch. According to the latest research by the Pilecki Institute, the number of people saved by the ‘Ładoś Group’ is estimated at 2,000 to 3,000.

Source: Jędrzej Uszyński, ‘Ambasador Ładoś i jego dyplomaci – niezwykła akcja ratowania Żydów z Holocaustu”, Czasopismo polonijne w Szwajcarii, Nasza Gazetka, 12.06.2020.

Ładoś List: the names of 3,262 Jews included in the so-called ‘Passport Action’ https://instytutpileckiego.pl/pl/instytut/aktualnosci/instytut-pileckiego-opublikowal-liste-nazwisk-3262-zydow-obj [accessed on: 21.02.2021]

Fot. PAP/Paweł Supernak


Translation: P.M

19 April 2021