In 1943, in the mop up operation following the liquidation of Warsaw Ghetto, the hotel was used by Germans as bait for Jews hiding in Warsaw. There the German agents and their Jewish collaborators pretended Jews could buy foreign passports and other documents, and then as foreign citizens, leave territories occupied by Nazi Germany. Approximately 2,500 Jews fell for this trap, with most subsequently arrested, moved to Nazi concentration camps, and perishing in The Holocaust. This case is known as "Hotel Polski Affair".
In 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising the building housed a Polish insurgent stronghold called the "Holy Mother Redout", named after a painting located there. The building was heavily damaged during the fighting and re-purposed following the war.
Hotel Polski affair
Around late 1941, two Jewish organizations from Switzerland and Polish diplomats, working with honorary consuls from certain South American countries, started sending documents to the Warsaw Ghetto, hoping to allow Jews in the ghettos to emigrate (as Germans were more lenient towards individuals who could prove to be nationals of neutral countries). However, in many cases the holders of these affidavits and passports were already dead by the time those documents arrived in occupied Poland. Many if not all of those documents were intercepted by the Gestapo, or otherwise ended up in the hands of Jewish Gestapo collaborators from Gestapo-operated Żagiew network (most prominently, Leon Skosowski and Adam Żurawin).
The Warsaw Ghetto was liquidated by May 1943 but thousands of Jews survived in Warsaw, hiding outside the ghetto. The Germans and their Jewish collaborators came up with a plan to lure them out. (Skosowski's involvement in the plan was very significant, and he has been referred to as a co-organizer of the Hotel Polski plan). Another Jewish Gestapo collaborator involved in the Hotel Polski affair was the singer Wiera Gran. Collaborators spread the rumor that Jews holding foreign passports of neutral countries were allowed to leave the General Government, and that documents from countries such as Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru and Chile, in the names of Jews who were no longer alive, were sold (at high prices, estimated in extreme cases to equal over a million US dollars) in Hotel Royal at 31 Chmielna street, and later at Hotel Polski. Unknown to the buyers, many such documents were improperly prepared or forged.
Hotel Polski became a gathering place for Jews who hoped they would soon be allowed to leave Nazi-occupied Europe, as rumors also suggested it would be safe ground. Around 2,500 Jews (estimates range as high as 3,500) came out of their hiding places and moved to Hotel Polski. The Polish underground warned Jews that this was probably a trap, but many ignored the warnings. Starting May 21 1943, Jews from Hotel Polski were transferred in small groups by Nazi German authorities to Vittel, a spa resort town in German-occupied France, which was supposed to be their transit point; later transports only made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. On 15 July 1943, the 420 Jews remaining in the Hotel without foreign passports were executed by the Germans at Pawiak prison. By September 1943, the Germans revealed that most of the documents of the individuals in the transit camps were forged, and the South American governments refused to recognize most of the passports. Therefore, instead of being transferred to South America, the Jews were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in May 1943 and October 1943. A few hundred Jews who held Palestinian documents survived, having been exchanged for Germans imprisoned in Palestine. (Jewish Historical Institute cited the number of survivors at 260; Haska estimates the number of survivors at about 300, noting that due to incomplete documentation it is not possible to precisely estimate the number of victims or survivors.) The Palestinian survivors were helped by Daniel Guzik, formerly associated with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
- Agnieszka Haska (2006). "Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść": Hotel Polski w Warszawie, 1943. Wydawn. IFIS PAN. p. 149. ISBN 978-83-7388-096-2.
- (in Polish) Zabytki_w_Polsce. Rejestr zabytkow. Zestawienia zabytkow nieruchomych. Mazowsze - Warszawa. Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa
- "Unveiling A Plaque at the Hotel Polski – Tablet Magazine". www.tabletmag.com. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
- "The 70th anniversary of the liquidation of Hotel Polski - Jewish Historical Institute". Jewish Historical Institute. 2013. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
- Tilar J. Mazzeo (27 September 2016). Irena's Children: The extraordinary woman who saved thousands of children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Simon & Schuster UK. pp. 151–153. ISBN 978-1-4711-5263-4.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski (1998). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-7864-0371-4.
- Agnieszka Haska (2006). "Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść": Hotel Polski w Warszawie, 1943. Wydawn. IFIS PAN. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-83-7388-096-2.
- Jockusch. Laura (15 June 2015). Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust. Wayne State University Press. p. 273. ISBN 978-0-8143-3878-0.
- Paulsson, Gunnar S. (1998). "The Rescue of Jews by Non-Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland". The Journal of Holocaust Education. 7 (1–2): 19–44. doi:10.1080/17504902.1998.11087056. ISSN 1359-1371.
- Hotel Polski at yadvashem.org
- Agnieszka Haska (2008). "Studies: Adam Żurawin, a Hero of a Thousand Faces". Holocaust Studies and Materials (1): 123–146.
- Shulman, Abraham (1982). The Case of Hotel Polski. An Account of One of the Most Enigmatic Episodes of World War II. New York: Schocken. ISBN 978-0896040342.
- Agnieszka Haska, Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść. Hotel Polski w Warszawie, 1943, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN, 2006, ISBN 83-7388-096-8. (in Polish)
- Światło na aferę "Hotel Polski". In: Tadeusz Kur: Sprawiedliwość pobłażliwa. Proces kata Warszawy Ludwiga Hahna w Hamburgu. Warszawa: wydawnictwo MON, 1975, p. 399-430. OCLC 6648513. (in Polish)
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