Growing up in the shadow of Treblinka, near his home in northeastern Poland, Father Rytel-Andrianik would listen to his grandfather's account of his imprisonment in the concentration camp and how he contracted typhus.
- Catholic News Service
The priest's grandfather, Stanislaw Rytel, was jailed for failing to collaborate with the Nazis, ultimately to be saved by a friend and fellow prisoner, who convinced camp guards that Rytel was his brother and his labour was needed to build a new barrack at the camp.
Such stories have inspired Father Rytel-Andrianik to learn more about people who risked their lives to save Jews and others during Europe's Nazi era.
Father Rytel-Andrianik, professor of Scripture at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is collecting the stories and building lists of names of average people, priests and nuns who risked their lives to save Jews. In 2011, he published a book about the heroic acts of Poles protecting Jews, I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name (Isaiah 56:5) Poles Savings Jews in the Area of Treblinka. It was written in Polish with Hebrew and English summaries.
The priest spoke with Catholic News Service in April in Jerusalem, where he regularly visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority and interviews Holocaust survivors.
Working with a small team of researchers, the priest recently completed the Priests for Jews project, with support from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and the Saeman Family Foundation. He discovered the names of 1,000 priests who saved Jews from certain death. The completed project is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2014 and will include a book and a website with archival documents and firsthand testimonies.
He also is compiling a list nuns who helped save people, building on the work of Polish researcher Ewa Kurek, whose own research uncovered that nearly two-thirds of the 85 women's religious communities in 360 convents in Poland during World War II were engaged in rescue work.
Father Rytel-Andrianik said the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland is better known than Treblinka, because all that remains of the second camp is a 26-foot memorial in Poland's northeastern forest.
FULL STORY Growing up near Treblinka inspired priest's Holocaust research (CNS)