Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda has inaugurated a monument erected in the Latin Catholic Cemetery in Istanbul’s Şişli district in honor of Wojciech Rychlewicz, a Polish diplomat who served as the mission chief in his country’s consulate-general to Istanbul during World War II.
Rychlewicz had helped save at least 5,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis by issuing them false certificates that identified them as Catholic Christians when he was stationed in Istanbul between 1936 and 1941.
Allowing Jewish refugees safe passage to Palestine and South American countries, the diplomat also informed the Polish government in exile simultaneously for his actions during this period.
Having joined the Anders’ Army, a Polish resistance movement against the Nazis, in Palestine in 1942, Rychlewicz retired as a lieutenant after the bloody war in which millions of people lost their lives.
Known as the man who saved Polish Jews from the Nazis, Rychlewicz died in London where he settled after 1946, on Dec. 8, 1964.
Duda, who was in Istanbul as part of an official visit, laid flowers at Rychlewicz’s monument on May 25.
“In memory of Wojciech Rychlewicz [1903-1964], the Chief of Mission of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland, who helped hundreds of Jews to flee Europe in war by issuing a certificate of belonging to the Catholic sect and saved them from the Holocaust during the WWII,” it is written on the monument.
İsak Haleva, the Chief Rabbi of Turkey, also prayed at the inauguration of the monument.
Following the ceremony, Duda visited the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and Istanbul’s Polonezköy, a village established by Polish emigres fleeing retribution after an 1830 uprising.
The leader, who visited the Zosia Aunt Memorial House, also met with Turkish Poles in the village.
Hurriyet Daily News