|From Israel Hayom. Wojciech Rychlewicz|
Wojciech Rychlewicz (1903-1964) was the head of the Polish Consulate General in Istanbul in the early years of WWII and was responsible for the rescue operation of Polish Jews who fled from the Nazis and the Soviets, an operation first revealed here. Using his position, Rychlewicz issued hundreds of false official documents confirming that Jewish refugees, who arrived in Turkey and sought to immigrate to other countries, were Christians. This apparently enabled hundreds, possibly thousands, of Polish Jewish refugees to emigrate to Brazil, other countries in Latin America, and then-British Palestine. In issuing these false official certificates, Rychlewicz took a very big risk.
As far as is known so far about this rescue operation, Rychlewicz did not demand money for his services. His and his wife's post-war lifestyle is evidence that the ex-consul – unlike some diplomats, did not get rich from rescuing Jews. This affair is another piece in uncovering the important role played by Polish diplomats, who represented Poland's exiled government in London, in efforts to save Jews during World War II.
It is doubtful that the rescue operation of the Polish consul in Istanbul would have been revealed had it not been for the determination of dr Bob Meth, a Jewish doctor from Los Angeles and a former member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, to reveal the identity of the man who saved his mother, grandfather and other relatives in those tumultuous times of World War II.
the Polish consul in Istanbul issued countless affidavits to Polish Jews trapped in Turkey What made the Polish Consul act the way he did? Was it simply an act of goodness, an act of decency? Kumoch asked one of his diplomats to check the information Bob had provided in the Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN) in Warsaw. In July, they located in the archive hundreds of nearly identical documents, each of which was dated 1940-1942, most of them in French - the diplomatic language of those days - and some in Turkish and Polish. All of these documents evidence the scope and complexity of the secret rescue operation.
A large part of the documents confirmed the belonging of people with clearly Jewish given names and surnames to the Catholic Church Quite a few documents confirm the emigration of the recipients of the documents to travel to then-British Palestine. It follows that the Polish consulate in Istanbul issued fictitious "Christian certificates" to Polish Jews not only so that they could overcome the difficulties of immigration to Latin American countries, but also so that they could circumvent the immigration restrictions imposed by the British Mandate authorities.
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