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Janusz Korczak (Hersh Goldshmit) - "Mr Doctor" of Children's Rights

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Janusz Korczak

Born in 1878 (or 1879) in a wealthy Jewish family in Warsaw he was an educator, doctor, social worker, pedagogue, writer of novels for children and most important of all, in my opinion anyway, defender of the rights of children.

When his father died, the 18 years old Hersh started tutoring to support his mother and sister. Finding out that he liked working with children he published his first articles about their education under the pseudonym of Janusz Korczak. Two years later he enrolled as a medical student at Warsaw University.

Having graduated as a pediatrician, he started working at a Jewish Hospital for children at the same being active as a tutor at summer holiday centers and continued to write children’s novels.

In 1912 he gave up work at the hospital to devote his life to poor orphaned children. He was appointed director of a new and spacious Jewish orphanage in Warsaw, on Krochmalna Street. Though the building was modern, he criticized the bedrooms being too large, not giving the privacy children needed.

Together with Stefania Wilczynska, a great educator, (daughter of a wealthy Jewish family) who, like Korczak, dedicated her life to the care of orphans and greatly influenced him and his career as an educator.

In the orphanage, Korczak studied the secret depths of the child’s soul, and it was in the orphanage that he made practical application of his educational ideas.

Janusz Korczak with children

Korczak called for an understanding of the emotional life of children and urged that children be respected.

A child was not to be regarded as something to be shaped and trained to suit adults, but rather as someone whose soul was rich in perception and ideas, who should be observed and listened to within his or her own autonomous sphere.

As Pan Doktor (Mr Doctor) or Stary Doktor (Old Doctor) he gave lectures on the radio and these were not only for children but for adults as well.

From the very beginning of the WWII, Korczak took up activities among the Jews and Jewish children. He refused to acknowledge the German occupation and obey its rules; he refused to wear the Jewish yellow badge and still wore the Polish Army uniform (he ranked major as a military doctor).

His most well known novels for children were: Król Maciuś Pierwszy (King Matthew the First), Król Maciuś na wyspie bezludnej (King Matthew on a Deserted Island), Bankructwo małego Dżeka (The Bankruptcy of Little Jack) and Kajtuś Czarodziej (Kaytek the Wizard), not to mention articles and numerous short stories which appeared in magazine for youth.

The Ghetto and the last march.

Germans started to close off the Jewish quarters in the spring of 1940 and the Warsaw Ghetto was finally sealed off in autumn of same year. The deportations started in the summer of 1942. There are many version of the last march, the death march out of Warsaw ghetto on 5th August 1942, when the Germans started to implement the “Final Solution” plan to exterminate Jews from occupied countries.

Janusz Korczak Monument

When he was ordered to leave ghetto – with his about 200 children and his co-worker Stefania Wilczyńska “Janusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar.”

(by Ghetto eyewitness, Joshua Perle).

Jews from Warsaw Ghetto were transported to Treblinka Extermination Camp...

Warsaw and Treblinka tour in memory of Janusz Korczak. Check details here.

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Treblinka Deathcamp

Warsaw and Treblinka tour in memory of Janusz Korczak. Check details here.

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