This refers to the Righteous, who were decorated with the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ medal, as well as to those who did not yet receive this honorary title, even though their sacrifice was just as great as that made by the recipients. Still, we can call them the Polish Rescuers. The phenomenon of the Righteous and the Rescuers arises from their experience of being targeted by the German terror machine. Those who chose to provide aid to Jews from 15 October 1941 onwards were subject to the death penalty. Secondly, as the German occupation law directed against Jews and those who helped them developed in response to the fact that existing deterrents were regarded by the occupiers as insufficient, cases of providing aid to Jews were brought under the principle of collective responsibility. This meant that punishment by death for all acts of aid extended also to family members, including children, and wider communities, such as residents of a tenement house in a town or all the people living in a village. Thirdly, the Germans introduced the death penalty for the failure to report known instances of Jewish people receiving shelter, which was intended to create an atmosphere of fear and force people to denounce others. It is worth stressing that this brutal German law, which was enforced with utmost severity and on such a wide scale, applied only to the territory of occupied Poland.
From the Introduction by President of the Institute of National Remembrance
Karol Nawrocki, Ph.D.