ACT News

Roman Talikowski honoured at Canberra ceremony for saving Jews from ghetto

The Holocaust memorial centre bestowed on him the Righteous Among the Nations award, and the baby girl he saved from the Nazis' clutches, now an elderly woman, sent a video of thanks, writes Phillip Thomson.

A baby named Joasia Przygoda was once given two sleeping pills by her father, put in a backpack with only a small hole for air and walked out of the Warsaw ghetto as Nazi checkpoint guards were bribed along the way.

But the baby needed to be hidden somewhere once outside the ghetto.

Jack Talikowski accepts an award of Righteous Among the Nations, on behalf of his father the late Roman Talikowski.
Jack Talikowski accepts an award of Righteous Among the Nations, on behalf of his father the late Roman Talikowski. Photo: Jamila Toderas

So Roman Talikowski, a man who sold gloves, organised a hiding place. 

Mr Talikowski, a Catholic merchant, risked the death penalty to save the lives of numerous Jews in Poland during the Holocaust.

He smuggled food and money into the Warsaw ghetto and organised false papers and safe houses.

On Tuesday at the Israeli embassy in Canberra, the late Mr Talikowski was honoured by Holocaust memorial centre Yad Vashem as being "Righteous Among the Nations", the highest award bestowed on gentiles. 


Son Jack and other family members travelled from Perth for the ceremony. 

"I'm very proud of my father," said Jack, a 68-year-old retired electrical engineer.

The baby in the backpack - Joasia is now an elderly woman - sent a video message.

In it she said three of the seven members of her family helped by Mr Talikowskisurvived the mass slaughter.

Mr Talikowski, who died years after the war, had been "open-minded enough" to risk his life for those different to him.

Israel ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel said Mr Talikowski's actions showed the best of humanity when the worst qualities of mankind had consumed his society.

"He found courage when others were paralysed by fear and made a stand against violence and atrocities,"  Mr Ben-Shmuel said. 

"He had the conviction to act upon what he knew was right."

Yad Vashem's website said many acts of courage during the Holocaust followed decisions made in an instant. 

"This was usually an instinctive human gesture, taken on the spur of the moment and only then to be followed by a moral choice," it said.

"Often it was a gradual process, with the rescuers becoming increasingly involved in helping the persecuted Jews.

"Agreeing to hide someone during a raid or roundup - to provide shelter for a day or two until something else could be found - would evolve into a rescue that lasted months and years."