Janusz Korczak

The Story of Janusz Korczak
An excerpt from the book by Michael Berenbaum. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1993, p.79

Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit) was a Jewish pediatrician and Poland's most famous children's advocate. He dedicated his life to orphaned children, both Christian and Jewish. The Christian and Jewish orphanages that he ran provided children with food, shelter and training in various trades so that the orphans could be self-supporting.

Korczak was very interested in the education of children and was well known for his weekly children's radio program. Janusz Korczak was the pseudonym that he used for writing children's books. The main character of these books was the kindly King Matt, a heroic boy-king who tried to improve the lives of his people. Korczak also started a popular children's newspaper, written by young people, that appeared as an insert in a Polish newspaper.

In 1940 the Warsaw ghetto was formed and the Jewish orphanage was forced to move into the crowded quarters of the ghetto. There Korczak and his assistants devoted all their energies to caring for the 200 orphans, educating and helping them survive in dignity.

Friends of Korczak tried to help him escape the ghetto but he refused to leave his orphans. On August 6, 1942 the Nazis rounded up the children from all the ghetto institutions, including Korczak's orphanage. Korczak probably understood that this deportation meant death.

He lined his children up in rows of four. The orphans were clutching flasks of water and their favorite books and toys. One hundred and ninety-two children and ten adults were counted off by the Nazis. Korczak stood at the head of his wards, a child holding each hand. One child carried the flag of King Matt, with the star of David set against a white field on the other side.

They marched through the ghetto in dignified silence and were transported in cattle cars to the concentration camp, Treblinka. Korczak and all his orphans were gassed at Treblinka.

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