British author Roger Moorhouse, who currently is writing a book on the Ładoś Group, gave a lecture in London’s JW3 also known as Jewish Community Centre. The name of the group comes from that of Aleksander Ładoś, a Polish ambassador to Switzerland during the World War II who led the effort to save European Jews.
The Polish diplomats in co-operation with Jewish circles launch the so-called “passport initiative” in Bern in 1941 with aim to save Jews from the Holocaust. Aleksander Ładoś, Konstanty Rokicki, Abraham Silberschein, Chaim Eiss, Stefan Ryniewicz, and Juliusz Kühl issued fake passports and citizenship credentials of Latin American countries for Jews threatened with the Holocaust. It was their chance for internment or even exchange for German prisoners of war instead of transport to death camps.
Roger Moorhouse says that Germans knew that the thousands of passports issued were fake, but despite that for two years or so, they accepted this operation. He explained that in this case, ideology around the need to “cleanse Europe of all Jews” lost in the clash with pragmatism, resulting in the Germans treating those Jews like “commodity,” that could be exchanged for their own prisoners of war.
He also explained that the reason why a vast majority of the passports or credentials of citizenship were issued on behalf of Paraguay was that the honorary consul of this country was chosen by the Ładoś group as the most prone to take a bribe.
It is estimated that members of the Ładoś Group issued 8,000 to 10,000 fake passports or citizenship credentials. Researchers from the Warsaw’s Pilecki Institute were able to find 3,000 names of people who were issued with them. They were compiled in a publication of the Institute in 2019.
The London event’s host, Jennifer Grant, a British researcher of Polish history in World War II, said that the story of the Ładoś Group is barely known in Great Britain. She expressed hope that Moorhouse’s book will change that.
She says that it could achieve a similar result as the biography of Witold Pilecki entitled “The Volunteer.” Written by British author Jack Fairweather, the book made Pilecki — a war hero who volunteered to go to Auschwitz and then executed by the communists after the war — a much more recognizable figure to a wider audience.
Moorhouse’s book will be published in spring next year.