It was the right thing to do

Józek Walaszczyk has died at the age of 102. He was Poland’s oldest living “Righteous Among the Nations” – a title given by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Józek saved 53 Jewish people and has been described as “the Polish Schindler”.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Józek was appointed manager of a potato flour factory in Rylsk, central Poland, which employed 200 workers. In 1941 a Jewish friend from before the war asked Józek to employ Jews from the nearby ghetto in Rawa Mazowiecka, as the Germans planned to liquidate it and kill the Jews. Because this Jewish friend had lent Józek money when he was in serious debt, Józek wanted to help him. He approached the head of the local labour office. The meeting did not start well, as the man took out a pistol and said, “You want to bribe a German for Jews?” When Józek agreed to pay a hefty sum of money and to top it up every couple of weeks, he was allowed to employ 30 Jews in his factory. When this arrangement expired, Józek warned his Jewish workers to hide if they saw German trucks. On one occasion, when Józek was out, German trucks came and took 5 Jews to the ghetto in Lodz.

Throughout the war Józek was involved in the Polish underground. He illegally entered the Warsaw ghetto to take food and clothing to Jewish friends. On one occasion he was caught carrying parcels to the Home Army, Poland’s resistance movement. They questioned him and beat and kicked him. They decided to shoot him: “I was in front of the firing squad, and I closed my eyes so as not to see the rifle fire. At that moment I heard: ‘Halt!’ I did not believe I was alive.” The Gestapo officer who intervened said death would have been too easy for Józek and instead wanted to send him to Auschwitz. He was spared when his mother intervened. Józek was always humble about his actions during the war and said, “I did what I did because it was the right thing to do.”

God always does the right thing. He has a good plan to save many. This is supremely true in the death of Jesus, his beloved Son. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away, yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. It was the Lord’s good plan to cause him grief. He will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”

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