Dr. Janusz Korczak (Real name Heinrich Goldschmidt)
(1879 – 1943)
Dr. Janusz Korczak was a great and caring man. He was a paediatrician, but first and foremost he was a humanitarian. Besides being a doctor, he was also a writer. Although he could be quite abrupt with adults, he had all the time in the world for children. He gave his time, patience and warmth to the children (orphans) he cared for. When he was 30 years old he stopped his medical practice and opened an orphanage for Jewish children who had been orphaned or abandoned. Some of these children had already seen the horrors of life and Dr Korczak took these children in a cared for them, teaching them about discipline and caring for themselves.
He respected his children and insisted that each child had a right to a locked drawer to keep their “treasures ” in.
He taught them that they had a voice and it was important to be heard. That they weren’t just nobody’s to just be forgotten about.
He organised plays and concerts for the children, he tried to show them the good things in life that not everything was bad. Even though these children had been scarred by death and horrors of life.
During WWll the orphanage was moved three times, the third time saw them placed into the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw Poland from where the SS began clearing out the Jewish people and sending them to the Concentration Camps (also known as Death Camps) in Poland. It is here that the Jews were sent to the gas chambers.
On the 5th August 1942, nearly 200 orphans were taken from the Warsaw ghetto to the trains to be transported to Treblinka, the death camp were they would be gassed. There was no crying or trying to hide, these children trusted their mentor and willing went with him, not knowing they would be going to their deaths. The doctor had told them that they would be going to the country where there was flowers and trees, out of the dirty ghetto. So these children were happy to leave, it must have been so hard for the doctor to keep up the front for the children. Knowing as he did what awaited them. The children were so happy that witnesses heard them singing on their way to the train. These children had gotten dressed in their best clothes for their trip to the country.
Dr Korczak voluntarily accompanied the children on their doomed journey. He was not required to do this but insisted on going with them, where he died along with his children in the gas chambers.
He was given the opportunity to save himself, but chose to die alongside his beloved children. Which he thought of as his own.
Even though there were stories about Dr. Korczak and his children surviving, there has never been any proof in the rumours.
There is a memorial to Dr. Korczak and his children at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland.
- by Chevonne Nicholas, 10ENG