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The Ładoś List
Introduction by The Pilecki Institute

Background (From "The Ładoś List". See Acknowledgements section below)

From at least the beginning of 1941 until the end of 1943, a group of Polish diplomats, led by Aleksander Ładoś, the Polish envoy in Bern, engaged in a remarkable venture. Cooperating with at least two Jewish organizations— the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Agudat Yisrael (Hebrew: Union of Israel)— the group illegally purchased and issued passports and citizenship certificates of four South and Central American states: Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti and Peru. They used these documents with the intention of saving Jews during the war.

Initially, the passports and certificates were sent exclusively into German-occupied Poland. In time, they became the tool for a rescue operation which was expanded to include Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Slovakia and Italy, but also German and Austrian Jews who had been stripped of their German citizenship, as well as individual citizens of other nations. The documents significantly increased the bearers’ chances of surviving the war, as they declared them to be "foreigners". As such, those individuals would be included on lists of Jews marked for prisoner exchange, or transported as inmates to transit camps instead of extermination camps.

The work presented here is the first attempt to create a list of the people for whom those documents were prepared. This is done without regard to whether those individuals in question were aware of the circumstances surrounding their issuance and regardless of the later fates of their bearers. These documents—both the passports and the citizenship certificates—are conventionally referred to as "Ładoś passports", in order to differentiate them from Latin American passports forged outside Switzerland, or those issued within Switzerland but probably without significant involvement of the Polish diplomats, such as George Mantello’s Salvadoran papers.

By using the names "Ładoś passports", "Ładoś group", or "Ładoś list", it is assumed—and it is an assumption that has been confirmed many times by the participants of the rescue operation themselves—that the key to the success of the entire operation was the support of the Polish envoy Aleksander Ładoś. As the head of the Legation, Ładoś put himself and his diplomats at the disposal of his Jewish partners and gave them political protection. In addition, Ładoś led a significant part of the work along with at least three other Polish diplomats. Together, they began an effective diplomatic campaign to have the documents recognized by the authorities in whose name the documents had been issued. Witnesses at the time often recalled that the operation would not have been successful without Ładoś’s support, and he was referred to by at least one of the Jewish members of the rescue operation, as "Righteous Among the Nations".

Alongside Ładoś himself, the group included the deputy head of the Legation, Stefan Ryniewicz, Vice-Consul Konstanty Rokicki, attaché of the Polish Legation, Juliusz Kühl, and two representatives of Jewish organizations: Abraham Silberschein (WJC and RELICO – Committee for Relief of the War-Stricken Jewish Population, which he had founded) and Chaim Eiss (Agudat Yisrael). Based on analysis of the available documentation, it is concluded that only these six members (Eiss, Kühl, Ładoś, Rokicki, Ryniewicz and Silberschein) were apprised of the whole operation and informed of the roles played by the other members. Those outside this intimate circle often knew only that Jewish organizations were trying to "arrange" Latin American documents with the unspecified "support" of the Polish Legation.

Unfortunately, none of the members left behind any completed memoirs which might clarify the process of forging. Aleksander Ładoś recalled an operational narrative "on Jewish issues", but he died before he could finish his memoirs. Juliusz Kühl, whose recollections were recorded in the 1970–1980s, made no mention of the passport operation. No evidence of the existence of memoirs from Ryniewicz, Silberschein or Rokicki has been found, and Eiss died in October 1943 while the passport campaign was still on-going.

Database

The database includes the names of 2,992 Jewish passport holders (representing themselves and 261 additional family members) to whom the Polish Legation and Jewish organizations in Switzerland issued Latin American passports during the Second World War. The current list represents approximately 30% - 40% of the 8,000 – 10,000 Jews whom the Ładoś group tried to save. Subsequent updates will be made as research continues.

The fields for this database are as follows:

  • Sequential number
  • Surname
  • Given name
  • Maiden name
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Total number of persons covered by passport
  • City where more recently resided
  • Country where more recently resided
  • Document received
  • Fate of passport holder
  • Comments

Acknowledgements

The list was created by a large number of researchers over two years. Representatives from the Polish Embassy in Bern and the Pilecki Institute in Warsaw created the list of passport holders. A complete description of those that contributed to the list from those organizations as well as other researchers, genealogists and historical groups is itemized in the publication, "The Ładoś List", published by the Pilecki Institute (ISBN 978-83-66340-18-3, Copyright © by Instytut Solidarności i Męstwa im. Witolda Pileckiego, 2020).

You can read more about the project from The Pilecki Institute’s website at http://passportsforlife.pl or you can write them with questions at ladoslist@instytutpileckiego.pl. You can download the publication cited above from https://instytutpileckiego.pl/public/upload/articles_files/The_Lados_List.pdf

Nolan Altman
May, 2021


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