Updated: Mar 29
Menachem Rosensaft, whose father received a Paraguayan Citizenship Certificate, with one of The Ładoś List Co-Authors Monika Maniewska, and Prof. Mordecai Paldiel, the leading international authority on rescuers during the Holocaust
Polish envoy Aleksander Ładoś stood up to the Nazis when questioned on his authority as an ambassador of a country that, in their view, no longer existed.
While in exile in Bern, Switzerland, Ładoś sided with humanity to save lives amidst the political chaos of war and Hitler's plans to kill the Jewish people.
Ładoś, other diplomats, and multiple Jewish organizations together turned the profiteering of others [who were selling blank passports] into an expansive underground network to save lives -- even against threats of deportation from Switzerland for breaking their laws.
Now decades later, upon review of declassified documents, survivors’ and others’ testimony, the efforts of Ładoś and his team are now known and documented in The Ładoś List, published by the Pilecki Institute.
My grandmother Hannah appears on The Ładoś List (see link below) as one of the 838 [known] people in Bedzin who sought their assistance; sadly the efforts of the Nazi killing machine moved at a faster speed than her transit papers, and she was killed before receiving these documents.
I reached out to the Pilecki Institute several weeks ago to find out the date Hannah contacted the Ładoś group, in addition to what she may have written to them.
Coincidentally, I learned that the Pilecki Institute was coming to the U.S. to present this work at Hebrew Union College in New York City -- about three hours by local and regional trains from where I live. I felt compelled to attend this presentation and learn about the efforts of the Ładoś group and perhaps a fragment of my grandmother’s life.
More than 8,000 names are in the Ładoś groups records. The efforts of Ambassador Kumoch and the Pilecki Institute deserve great credit for bringing the humanitarian efforts of the Ładoś group to light. Efforts are underway for Aleksander Ładoś to be recognized posthumously by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. One of the co-authors, Monika Maniewska, signed my copy of The Ładoś List “for Chana” -- in memory of my grandmother.
Link to Lados List
Possibly it is one of Hannah's cousins and his wife who did receive passports from this group and survived -- Juda and Mania Fersztenfeld; Hannah's mom's maiden name was Fersztenfeld.
If you are related to, or your family knew Jude and Mania, please contact the Pilecki Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have shared more information below written by Jeffrey Cymbler, who helped the Pilecki Institute with the research of this publication. His family is also from Bedzin, Poland, my dad’s ancestral home for more than four generations.
"Over two years ago, thanks to a Facebook posting, I befriended Jakub Kumoch, the Polish Ambassador to Switzerland. At the time, Jakub was researching the story of how four Polish diplomats (one of whom was Jewish) together with two Jewish activist leaders who were residing in Switzerland – now collectively referred to the Ładoś Group -- conjured up one of the largest rescue operations of the Holocaust – an informal cooperation of Jewish organizations and Polish diplomats who, in 1943, fabricated and smuggled illegal Latin American passports to, among other places, the Bedzin and Sosnowiec ghettos, saving some of their holders and their families from deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Those saved included Rutka Laskier’s cousin, Michal Laskier, Menachem Liwer’s uncle, Arie Liwer, Abaham Manela, the author of the book “On the Way to the Rising Moon” (hebrew) and Avigdor Zarompf, Alfred Szwarcbaum’s nephew, who was a mere 8 years old when he and his aunt, got one of the passports in March 1943, was arrested and sent to the Tittmoning detention camp in Bavaria. Avigdor joined our group tour to Poland in 2018.
The leader of this operation was the Alexander Ładoś, the head of the Polish Legation in Bern. He was assisted by Stephen Ryniewicz, Lados’s deputy; Konstany Rokicki, who was the actual scrivener, or more precisely the actual forger; and Julius Kuhl, the orthodox Jewish attaché at the Polish Legation who interacted with two prominent Jewish activist leaders in Switzerland at the time: Abraham Silberschein and Chaim Eiss, collectively known today as the Ładoś Group.
Jakub’s project immediately drew me in to volunteer to assist wholeheartedly. In addition to the many hundreds of pages of documents, including Latin American passports, that I had photocopied over 30 years ago in various archives in Israel, as JRI-Poland town leader for Bedzin and Sosnowiec, I was able to access and utilize JRI-Poland’s extensive data to help determine the identities of hundreds of passport holders. In addition, through personal knowledge of many Bedzin-Sosnowiec families that I have acquired over many years and by publishing posts on our Bedzin-Sosnowiec-Zawiercie Area Research Group FB page, I was able to determine the fate of many Zaglembie area Jews for whom these passports were issued or in process to be issued.
Last evening, at Hebrew Union College in Manhattan, I was thrilled to attend the premiere presentation of the English language book simply entitled, “The Ładoś List”, edited by Jakub Kumoch. The book lists some 3,253 people – a fraction of the estimated 8,000 – 10,000 individuals who were the intended recipients of the Latin American passports forged by the Polish diplomats in Switzerland.
The largest group of identified Ładoś passport bearers – amounting to more than 1,210 people – comes from the cities of the Zaglembie region of Poland, i.e., Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa Górnicza, and surrounding areas. These account for more than one third of all the identified people and more than one half of the Polish Jews from the Ładoś list. Included in the list are my cousin survivor, Maria Adlerfliegel, who was a nurse in during the war in the Będzin Jewish hospital. Also on the list are my great uncle and aunt, Lajb (Leon) Cymbler and his wife Ruchla Monszajn Cymbler and their son and daughter, Joel Wolf Cymbler and Dwojra Cymbler – none of whom survived. Ruchla was shot to death in June 1943 in the Bedzin ghetto while trying to escape from a German roundup of Jews to be sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I assume that Lajb and the children met their fates in the crematoria in Birkenau.
For the past two years, I have worked very closely with my friends, Jakub Kumoch; Jędrzej Uszyński, deputy consul of Poland to Switzerland; Markus Blechner, Honorary Polish consul to Zurich; Heidi Fishman, author of “Tutti’s Promise”, whose mother and grandparents were saved by one of the passports; and Eve Brandel, whose parents were interred in the Tittmoning and Vittel detention camps. In the process of publicizing this, until now, unknown story of Polish-Jewish and Polish-non-Jewish cooperation at the height of the Holocaust, I have had the pleasure to meet with on several occasions and cooperate with some other wonderful Polish historians: Wojciech Kozłowski, the Director of the Pilecki Institute in Warsaw and his colleagues, Eryk Habkowski and Monika Maniewska, with whom I anticipate working with in the future on other Holocaust-related projects concerning Bedzin-Sosnowiec area Jews.
Sadly, my dear friend, Jakub’s tenure in Bern will be ending next month and he is off to another challenging post in the Polish diplomatic front. However, I am sure that we will continue our friendship and our after-hours late-night Facebook messenger discussions about the Ładoś Group.
The “Ładoś List” will be available for purchase on eBay.
I would like it to be known that I have devoted my time on this project in memory of my father’s uncle and aunt, Lajb (Leon) Cymbler and Ruchla Monszajn Cymbler and my father’s first cousins, Joel Wolf Cymbler (born 1928) and Dworja Cymbler (born 1924), whose photo is attached to this post."