The Hotel Polski, operating since 1808, at 29 Długa Street, became known as a place which during the German occupation became as a trap for Jews hiding in Warsaw in the spring of 1943. 

At the turn of 1941 and 1942, when information about the persecution of the Jewish population began to reach Western Europe, Jewish organizations in Switzerland wanted to enable some people imprisoned in the ghetto to leave the General Government. They arranged the passports of the neutral countries of South and Central America (including Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru and Chile) and sent them to the occupied Poland. The holders of the documents were then to reach to camps in the West. There, they were to be exchanged for German prisoners of war.

However, these documents never got to their addressees. It is known that in the spring of 1943 they were in the hands of two people - Leon (Lejb) Skosowski and Adam Żurawin, Jews who were most likely Gestapo informers. With the tacit consent of the German authorities, they both started selling these documents. Information about the possibility of buying passports of neutral countries circulated in Warsaw in May and June 1943. The hiding Jews, who could not bear anymore the life in fear or had nowhere to hide after the collapse of the ghetto uprising, began to report for the purchase of documents. The first point of contact was Hotel Royal at 31 Chmielna Street, and later Hotel Polski at 29 Długa Street. Passports could have been purchased for 30 to 300 zlotys, gold and other valuables were also accepted as a form of payment.

Adina Blady-Szwajgier, who escorted her husband, Stefan Szpigielman to the Hotel, described her visit at 29 Długa Street as follows:

“When we left that porter’s lodge and entered the hall, it was just like in a dream or in a surreal movie. Because there were Jews everywhere. Without armbands. Moving freely. These were rich Jews. That trip was very costly. Papers sent to people whose ashen bones fertilized the soil in Treblinka, the Gestapo resold at a high price. It was an expensive death. But before it for that money you got 2-4 days of illusion. Maybe that is also worth something?"[1.1]

As a result of this action, nearly 3,000 Jews, including writers Jehoszua Perle and Icchak Kacenelson with his son came out of hiding. By reporting to the Hotel Polski, they put themselves in the hands of the German authorities. They were interned in the building on Długa Street, and then gradually transported to the concentration camps in Vittel and Bergen-Belsen. On 13 July 1943, the last several hundred residents of the Polish Hotel, who came forward but were unable to pay for the documents, were taken by the Germans to the Pawiak prison and shot there.

Approximately 2.5 thousand Jews sent to Vittel and Bergen-Belsen waited hopefully for the departure for South America. However, it turned out that Honduras, Paraguay, Panama and other neutral countries had questioned the authenticity of the documents. Passport holders were not their legal owners. Perhaps the consulates that issued them did not inform their headquarters about it. On this matter many questions remain unanswered.

The Jews deported to Vittel and Bergen-Belsen finally ended up in Auschwitz, where in the spring of 1944 they were murdered. Out of approximately three thousand Jews who stayed in Hotel Polski expecting to depart for South America, only 260 survived.

 

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1]  [A. Blady-Szwajger, I więcej nic nie pamiętam, Warsaw 2010, p. 220.].