It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Excerpt from the article:

The Żabiński Award honors Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust. It has been awarded since 2015 by the controversial From the Depths foundation, which mimics the agendas of several better established organizations that deal with Holocaust commemoration. The award is the foundation’s flagship project and aims to redress failings on the part of both Polish organizations and Yad Vashem. The award ceremony, organized with impressive pomp, is sponsored by a number of state-owned companies, and yet there are no clear rules as to how, why or to whom the award should be accorded. In 2017, Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki, after whose parents the award was named, decided to boycott the ceremony due to its excessively political slant. The event was attended by many high-ranking politicians almost exclusively from the Polish right-wing ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS).


The Żabiński Award has already been granted twice, but the ground rules are still unclear. On the foundation’s website, beyond stating that the award intends to honor Poles who saved Jews during the Second World War there is no indication as to how and for what the honor may be bestowed. No regulations are detailed, there is no mention of a jury and, critically, there is no information about the verification and confirmation procedure regarding rescue testimonies. We contacted From the Depths for more information, although the foundation did not respond in spite of the fact that such information should be publicly available. Even Teresa Żabińska-Zawadzki, the patrons’ daughter who agreed to the award being named after her parents, doesn’t know the rules. Provided information is so scarce, one might be lead to believe that nominees are chosen randomly—or, perhaps, in accordance with criteria known only to Daniels.


From the Depths does not disclose whether it cooperates with any historians, which raises legitimate doubts as to its purported research. The lack of clear procedures could easily result in the award being given to someone who is not, in fact, a true hero.

If nominees for the Żabiński Award were not recognized by Yad Vashem, one must wonder why that might be. Yet this is difficult to ascertain because the Yad Vashem commission session reports are confidential, so the most plausible explanation that one might arrive at is that these particular cases were suspended. The reasons for the commission’s decisions are never disclosed. After all, the reasons may be much more grave than merely incomplete documentation. Circumstances surrounding the rescue may have been questionable or payment may have been demanded in exchange for help. Though there are few cases as well documented as those of Antonina and Jan Żabiński and their son Ryszard.

Translation: Aga Zano

Proofreading: Barbara Pendzich, Maximilian Eisenhardt

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