Anniversaries & holidays

European Day of the Righteous

Na medalu: dwie ręce trzymające liny osnute drutem kolczastym, które otaczają kulę ziemską; wokół kuli napis w języku hebrajskim: „Kto ratuje jedno życie, ratuje cały świat”.
Medal "Sprawiedliwy wśród Narodów Świata" (awers) z kolekcji Muzeum POLIN

6 March marks the European Day of the Righteous, established in 2012 by the European Parliament to commemorate those who risked their lives standing up against totalitarian regimes. The idea refers to the title of Righteous Among the Nations granted by the State of Israel.

The Yad Vashem Institute has awarded the medal of Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust since 1963. The decision on who ought to be honoured with this medal is made by a special commission made up of judges of the Supreme Court of Israel, following a rigorous procedure to verify each case. The title is granted to people who risked their lives or freedom providing selfless help to Jews who faced death or deportation to extermination camps. This way the State of Israel and its people show gratitude to those who showed solidarity with Jews at the darkest hour known to history.

The Righteous are presented with a medal and an honorary diploma, and their names are engraved on the memorial plaque located at the Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem. According to the latest accessible data, 27,712 people have been granted the title of the Righteous Among the Nation until the beginning of 2020; 7,112 of them hail from Poland.

The European Parliament Act of 2012 broadened the notion of a Righteous, and rendered it more universal. According to the Act, Righteous are people who "stood up against crimes against humanity and totalitarianism, being driven by their personal sense of responsibility." Local Gardens of the Righteous as well as committees who grant the title were established in several dozen countries, among them in Armenia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Italy and France.

In Poland, the first Garden of the Righteous was opened in 2014 in the Wola district of Warsaw. The following individuals were granted the title at the time: Jan Karski, Marek Edelman, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Anna Politkowska, Magdalena Grodzka-Gużkowska, Antonia Locetelli. In the following years, they were joined by: Petro Hryhorenko, Nelson Mandela, Hasan Mazhar, Witold Pilecki, Władysław Bartoszewski, Jan Zieja, Natalia Gorbaniewska, Jan Jelinek, Roberto Kozak, Rafał Lemkin, Adalbert Wojciech Zink, Armin Wegner, Ewelina Lipko-Lipczyńska, Arsenij Roginski and Raul Wallenberg.

The date of 6 March when we celebrate the European Day of the Righteous is yet another symbolic link with the title of the Righteous Among the Nations. On that day in 2007, Moshe Bejski (b. 1921) passed away. Bejski was an inmate of the concentration camp in Płaszów, judge at the Supreme Court of Israel, prime mover behind the Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem and co-author of the definition of the Righteous Among the Nations.