By Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

The National Remembrance Park commemorates the names of over 18,500 Polish people who defended Jews from extermination. The plan is to write 40,000 names on the commemoration plaques. In the future, there will also be names of Ukrainians who died saving Poles.

The National Remembrance Park was opened in Toruń, Poland on August 8, 2020. The opening ceremony began with a Holy Mass at the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary Star of the New Evangelization and St. John Paul II in Toruń. The Eucharist was presided over by Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, Metropolitan of Gdańsk. “Remembering John Paul II’s warning that a nation that does not know its past dies and does not build a future, we still need to make up for the great backlog of the past years, we still need to make up for it today”, said Archbishop Głódź.

In a letter sent to the participants of the inauguration ceremony President of Poland Andrzej Duda wrote that the “memory of the exceptional-normal Poles rescuing Jews during World War II is an irremovable part of Polish identity”. The Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was present at the ceremony, said instead: “Let this Park be a meeting place for generations – a generation of those who behaved as it should at that barbaric time, our generation, and the generations that will come after us”.

Alexander Ben Zvi, Ambassador of Israel to Poland, in a letter read by the Embassy’s spokesman, wrote: “On the occasion of the opening of the Remembrance Park, we remember the victims of this terrible war and extermination, which took place 80 years ago. We also remember those wonderful and noble people who helped their Jewish neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers to survive, and especially those who sacrificed their lives and those of their loved ones”.

The Park is intended to be an open space, accessible to Poles and foreigners, allowing for natural inclusion in intergenerational and international dialogue the reflection on the living testimony of the highest sacrifice, which is the sacrifice of one’s own life. There are already 2,345 nuns and about 600 priests and bishops commemorated in the Park. There are also many names of the whole families written on the commemoration plaques.

The National Remembrance Park was created in a complex with the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary Star of the New Evangelization and St. John Paul II as well as the College of Social and Media Culture run by the Redemptorists, who in Toruń also run Radio Maria and a Catholic TV Trwam. The Shrine hosts additionally a Memorial Chapel, where there are the names of over 1,200 Poles who died for rescuing the Jewish population, which is visited every year by about 500,000 people from all over the world.

These initiatives have an educational value, reminding of the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust. Poland was actually the only country occupied by the Germans, where the death penalty was imposed by invaders for helping the Jews.

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