MP Daniel Kawczynski: My family was murdered by the Nazis

No matter the years that pass by, the horror and the sheer inhumanity of the Nazi actions do not diminish and nor should they.

Just as we should never be allowed to forget the abhorrent actions of many people who would have considered themselves normal members of society, it’s equally important that we celebrate those who fought against them. Particularly those who gave their lives to save others who were persecuted only for who they were. Not their choices, but simply who they were.

Next week, Shrewsbury and Atcham’s Polish born MP, Daniel Kawczynski, will return to his homeland to receive an award on behalf of his great uncle Jan.

It is an award for his family’s efforts to shelter Jews during the Second World War, saving them from the horrors of concentration camps like Auschwitz; an heroic and selfless act which ultimately cost them their lives.

The honour will come in the way of ‘From The Depths Zabinski Awards’, which recognise non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Jan Kawczynski was murdered along with his wife Helena and 13-year-old daughter Magdalena by German soldiers at their Polish farm during the Second World War.

Mr Kawczynski’s crime had been to hide Jews in his own home for their protection.

He was forced dig graves then watch as first his daughter, then his wife, were shot in front of him.

Daniel, who will collect the award in a ceremony at Warsaw Zoo on Monday, said his family had told him the harrowing tale of his great uncle’s heroic efforts when he was a child.

He said: “I was told the story when I was a child in 1985. My grandfather’s brother had Jewish families on his farm and he was told the Germans had discovered this and surrounded it and not to go back because they would kill him.

“He said ‘I have to go back, my daughter and my wife are there’, so he knew he was going back to his death.

“The Germans made him first dig a grave and then they shot his 13-year-old daughter, then his wife, and then him.”

About six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, and about two million ethnic Polish people also died.

It is estimated that between 15 and 20 million people were killed by the Nazis.

About 90 per cent of Poland’s 3.3 million Jewish people also died as a result of the Holocaust.

Hitler had planned for the extermination of all ethnic Poles, with plans to replace them with German settlers.

Jan Zabinski and Antonina Zabinska, the couple who the awards are named after, used Warsaw Zoo, where Jan was a director, to shelter hundreds of Jewish people during the German occupation.

The couple also sheltered Jews in their own villa on the zoo site.

Jan then fought in the Warsaw Uprising – the largest resistance effort during the Second World War – but was injured, captured and taken to Germany.

Mr Kawczynski said that the information uncovered by the Zabinski awards has shed even more light on the heroic efforts of his great uncle and his family.

He said: “He was a great mathematician apparently, a very well respected mathematician and basically all this has come to the fore because they have been researching it and found out about all these details. They are quite extraordinary revelations.”

Mr Kawczynski said that many people had been sheltered at the farm.

He said: “There were neighbours, friends, people who were obviously in the surrounding area who were in desperate need. There were numerous families involved and obviously he was putting them in cellars in the traditional way, in lofts, and of course for a long time managed to get away with it, but somehow the Germans found out about it and completely surrounded his place.”

“One of his neighbours warned him and said “do not come back, you will be killed”.”

Mr Kawczynski said he felt a huge sense of pride at his family’s selfless actions.

He said: “It was incredibly courageous. Most people tried to keep their heads down under occupation. There were a very small number of resistance fighters who went against what the Germans did and I am very proud that my family were involved in standing up to that tyranny.”

Mr Kawczynski said that it is still vital that young people are taught about the Holocaust.

He said: “The most important thing is this gives us a chance to pass the knowledge on to our children. What we need to pass on is the concept that if there is ever a crisis where a colleague, a neighbour, a friend is in trouble that we ought to go to help them.”