Janusz Korczak was one of the world’s first advocates of children’s rights. On August 6, 1942 he became a heroic figure. On that day, this Polish-Jewish doctor, writer and educator was forced to gather together the two hundred orphans under his care in the Warsaw Ghetto and report for deportation. Refusing all offers for his own rescue, he led them with quiet dignity to the tram that would take them to the Treblinka extermination camp, where he perished with them.
Janusz Korczak was born Henryk Goldsmit in 1878. He is renowned throughout Europe, yet is virtually unknown in Canada. It was he who introduced the first progressive orphanages – both for Jewish and for Catholic children – into Poland, founded the first national children’s newspaper, and testified on behalf of children in juvenile courts. His King Matt the First, Korczak’s story of a child-king who dreamed of organizing a children’s crusade to reform the world, is regarded in Poland with the reverence we in the West accord Peter Pan.
Janusz Korczak was a man who died as he lived, with the welfare and rights of children uppermost in his mind. UNESCO declared 1979 as the “Year of Janus Korczak”, yet few Canadians know about the man or his progressive ideas on education and children’s rights.
The exhibit Janusz Korczak & The Children of the Warsaw Ghetto covers the life of Janusz Korcak. The exhibit also examines the experience and tragic fate of the children in the Warsaw Ghetto and how the violation of children’s rights during the Holocaust is reflected in the fight for children’s rights in the world today.