Hotel Polski
Hotel Polski opened in 1808, was a hotel
A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. The provision of basic accommodation, in times past, consisting only of a room with a bed, a cupboard, a small table and a washstand has largely been replaced by rooms with modern facilities, including en-suite bathrooms...

 in Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, at 29 Długa street. In 1943, the Hotel was used by Germans
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 as an internment place for Jews from Warsaw, where they could buy foreign affidavits and passports and, as foreign citizens, leave Warsaw. This case is known as "Hotel Polski Affair".

In 1942, the Germans promised to allow Jews from Warsaw holding foreign passports of neutral countries to leave the General Government
General Government
The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

 for South America. Seeing this as an opportunity to save the lives of Jews in the ghettos, Jewish organizations from Switzerland started sending documents to the Warsaw Ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established in the Polish capital between October and November 15, 1940, in the territory of General Government of the German-occupied Poland, with over 400,000 Jews from the vicinity...

. However, in many cases, the holders of these affidavits and passports were already dead. In May 1943, after the last deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto, a network of Jewish collaborators, some of them probably in direct agreement with local Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 authorities, started to sell these documents to Jews who were hiding on the "Aryan" side of Warsaw. The Gestapo used the Hotel Polski to house the Jewish families preparing for the journey. Around 2500 people came out of their hiding places and moved to the Hotel Polski. In July 1943 they were transferred to the Vittel
Vittel is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.Mineral water is bottled and sold here by Nestlé Waters France, under the Vittel brand.-History:...

 and Bergen-Belsen
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen was a Nazi concentration camp in Lower Saxony in northwestern Germany, southwest of the town of Bergen near Celle...

 camps. On 15 July 1943, the 300 Jews remaining in the Hotel without foreign passports were executed by the Germans at Pawiak
Pawiak was a prison built in 1835 in Warsaw, Poland.During the January 1863 Uprising, it served as a transfer camp for Poles sentenced by Imperial Russia to deportation to Siberia....

 prison. 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 in October 1943 and May 1943. About 350 Jews who held Palestinian affidavits survived.

Some of the famous residents of Hotel Polski included Itzhak Katzenelson, Menachem Kirszenbaum and Jehoszua Perle from the Jewish resistance.

Many historians see the "Hotel Polski affair" as a German trap to lure the richer Jews out of their hiding places in Warsaw under false promises and steal their possessions. However, as new Polish research points out, if the South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

n governments had recognized these passports, this would have been a real chance of survival for some Warsaw Jews.

Further reading

  • Agnieszka Haska, Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść. Hotel Polski w Warszawie, 1943, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN, 2006, ISBN 83-7388-096-8.
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