The Embassy of the Polish Republic in Budapest, in cooperation with the Polish Institute and the Holocaust Memorial Center, have organised a conference to honour the memory of Henryk Sławik, who saved the lives of thousands of people − Polish military and civilians, as well as some 5,000 Jews – during the Second World War.
The commemorative event started with a wreath-laying ceremony at Henryk Sławik’s memorial plaque in Garibaldi Street, Budapest. At the conference at the Holocaust Memorial Center, Budapest, welcome addresses were given by Roman Kowalski (Polish Ambassador to Hungary), Iván Bába (State Secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis (US Ambassador to Hungary), Karin Olofsdotter (Swedish Ambassador to Hungary) and Ilan Mor (Israeli Ambassador to Hungary).
The speeches were followed by presentations from Polish and Hungarian academics on Sławik’s politics and social activism, as well as his relations to Hungary.
State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Iván Bába said that in dramatic moments of history most people remain passive; this is why it is of great importance when somebody chooses to act. Together with József Antall (senior) − who was a member of the Hungarian Ministry of Internal Affairs responsible for civilian refugees − Henryk Sławik was aware that rescuing people in wartime could have severe consequences, but neither man shrank from his duty to others. Such was also the case with Raoul Wallenberg, who was remembered last Sunday.
Polish Ambassador Kowalski said that Sławik proved it was possible to remain human and to preserve dignity in the cruellest times. He added that during the war Hungarians were exceptionally helpful to Poles, and this will always be remembered.
Israeli Ambassador Mor reminded his audience that Henryk Sławik helped Jewish children as well. Holocaust survivors still remember that people from different backgrounds fought for a common goal: to save Jews.
US Ambassador Kounalakis said that the deeds of Henryk Sławik have given inspiration to others too, and that even today we must stand up against anti-Semitism.
Swedish Ambassador Olofsdotter pointed out that Wallenberg was not the only person to save Jews in Budapest.
As leader of the Citizen's Committee for Help for Polish Refugees, Henryk Sławik, a Polish politician and journalist, constantly cooperated with the Hungarian Government Commissioner for Refugees, József Antall Sr. As a result of their work, an orphanage and school were established for Jewish children who had fled to Hungary. Sławik remained faithful to his principles to the end, even after the German occupation of Budapest in 1944, when the Gestapo tried to extort crucial information him by torture. Henryk Sławik died on 23 August 1944 in Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria.
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)