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Henryk Iwański (1902-1978), nom de guerre Bystry, was a member of the Polish resistance during WWII. He is known for leading one of the most daring actions of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) in support of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. For his assistance to the Polish Jews Iwański was bestowed the title of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 1964.

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Life

Before the Second World War Henryk had reached the rank of captain in the Polish Army. Soon after Nazi Germany invaded Poland and began the Holocaust, Henryk was instrumental in the founding of the Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (Jewish Fighting Organization).[1] Together with the rest of his family he dedicated himself to support the Jews, working through the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa). Iwański was one of the AK members dealing with the Jews, providing them with arms, ammunition, and instructional materials smuggled through the sewers or in carts that brought lime and cement into the ghetto.

From the very first days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising the AK maintained contact with the Jewish fighters and tried to support them by providing supplies and launching supportive strikes against the Germans. Some of AK soldiers volunteered to join the fighters in the ghetto from the very first day of the uprising.[2] When one of the commanders of the Jewish units, Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, sent a message to the AK informing the Poles that he had been wounded, and asking for arms and ammunition, Iwański took an AK unit (Państwowy Korpus Bezpieczeństwa, the Security Corps) through a tunnel into the Ghetto to directly support the Jewish fighters. Among the 18 members of the unit were his brother, Wacław and Henryk's son, Roman. They entered the ghetto on April 27, 1943, bringing ammunition and other supplies and on the spot they decided to relieve some of the exhausted fighters, engaging the Germans together with the remaining members of the ŻZW on the Muranowski Square. In the fight Wacław was killed; Henryk and his son Roman were seriously wounded, Roman fatally. Zbigniew, another son of Henryk fought on Karmelicka Street and died on May 3, 1943, escorting a group of Jews out of the ghetto. After being wounded, Iwański was brought from the ghetto, escorted by a group of Polish and Jewish fighters, among them Ber Mark, who later wrote a book about the Uprising. Nonetheless, Iwański returned to the ghetto at least once more, bringing another set of ammunition and supplies.[3][4][5] This was one of several actions of the Polish resistance providing assistance to the Jews in the ghetto.[4]

Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto memorial in Warsaw

In 1963, for his actions Iwański was awarded the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, one of Poland's highest military decorations for valor. Soon later, in 1964, with his wife Wiktoria he was decorated with the medal of Righteous Among the Nations (awarded only, if there are or were, at the time of the award, Jewish witnesses who survived).

Recent questions concerning inconsistencies regarding the nature and extent of Iwanski's support for the Jewish underground have been raised. Examinations of Israeli and Polish archives have brought allegations that Iwanski exaggerated his war time activities, had made anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli radio and television broadcasts, and as an informant of Polish secret police had spied on Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal as an informant against the Jewish Historical Institute (reasons for such accusation might have been that, first, it was unlikely for a member of the Home Army to be tolerated and much less likely to be awarded a medal by the Communists; also possibly a vendetta through the means of history for his activy in 1968 that was either anti-Semitic or viewed as such).[6][7][8]

See also

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References

Further reading

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