President of the Republic of Poland / News / President honours Polish consul for saving Jews during WWII

Source: Republic of Poland in English

The activity of consul Konstanty Rokicki, who during WWII issued false passports saving in this way hundreds of Jews from Nazi German occupied Poland “symbolises a brighter star in the abyss of despair of those years,” President Andrzej Duda said in Switzerland on Tuesday.

The President and his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, attended the unveiling of a new tomb of the Polish consul at a cemetery in Lucerne.

“We bow our heads before all the victims of the terrible Holocaust, of the darkest years of the 20th century, and probably the darkest in the history of mankind. We bow our heads before millions of bestially murdered Jews, we bow our heads to millions of bestially murdered citizens of various European countries. But let me bow my head today especially before millions of murdered Poles, including Poles of Jewish descent,” the President said.

Polish consul Konstanty Rokicki, who together with Ambassador Ładoś belonged to the so-called Bern Group, which during WWII issued false passports to Jews to make it possible for them to escape to South America. (PAP)

Konstanty Rokicki

Born in Warsaw (1899), Polish consular officer, vice-consul of the Republic of Poland in Riga and Bern, Holocaust rescuer. Between 1941 and 1943, Rokicki used his position of vice-consul to produce false Latin American passports and had them smuggled to the German-occupied Poland where they saved lives of their Jewish bearers.

In 1931, he joined the consular service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1932 and 1933, he was a contractual employee of the Polish Consulate in Minsk, at that time capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1934-1936 he was vice-consul in Riga, and in the years 1936-1938 a contract employee of the Polish Legation in Cairo. From 1939 to 1945, he was the vice-consul of the Republic of Poland in Bern.

It is estimated that between 1941 and 1943, Rokicki and his subordinate, Jewish diplomat Juliusz Kühl produced several thousands of illegal Paraguayan passports which served as protection documents for Jews stranded in the Nazi ghettos in German-occupied Poland.

Rokicki and Kühl personally bribed the Paraguayan honorary consul, Bernese notary Rudolf Hügli to obtain blank passes which Rokicki filled out with the names of the Polish Jews. The lists of beneficiaries and their photos were smuggled between Bern and occupied Poland thanks to the network of Jewish organizations, in particular Agudat Yisrael and RELICO, headed by Chaim Eiss and Abraham Silberschein respectively. The passports of Paraguay – unlike the passports of other Latin American countries – had a special value, because this country – under the pressure of Poland and the Holy See – temporarily recognized (1944) their validity.

Consul Rokicki left the service in 1945, after the establishment of the pro-Soviet Provisional Government of National Unity and settled permanently in Switzerland. He died in Lucerne in July 1958, after several years of illness.