The National Bank of Poland have issued two commemorative coins which mark a somber period during the second world war when many Polish families giving shelter and protection to Jewish families being persecuted by the Nazi occupiers were themselves also executed for their heroism.
In October 1941, the Administrative Government introduced the death penalty for Jews escaping from the ghettos and also for those who provided them any aid. The Nazi authorities were determined to carry out these laws and as a result, victims were often killed on the spot. The death penalty for helping Jews began to be used against the Poles in the last months of 1942 after the murder of Jews in the Warsaw ghettos were at their height.
The total number of Poles documented to have lost their lives as a result of assistance to the Jews in the years 1942-1945 totaled more than 700, including what was termed as “collective guilt” which meant that whole families of those individual members accused were executed including children. Specifically mentioned incidents noted on the commemorative coins include the executions of the Kowalski family in 1942, the Baranków family in 1943 and the Ulma family in 1944, all three of the dates are denoted on the reverse side.
The obverse of the 20 Zlotych coin is designed by Grzegorz Pfeifer and depicts a group of men, women, and children hidden in the basement of a house against wooden planks with the inscription above which reads “POLACY/RATUJĄCY ŻYDÓW” (Poles saving Jews). Below the first line of text reads “RODZINY ULMÓW, KOWALSKICH, BARANKÓW” (families Rodziny Ulmów, Kowalskich, Baranków). In the lower left side, a stylized outline of a machine gun is pointed at those in hiding.
The reverse design depicts the image of the Eagle state emblem representing the Polish Republic. To the right of the eagle is the year of issue “2012”. Under the Eagle, are images of a farmhouse and trees. The coin’s denomination of 20 złotych is positioned just under the farmhouse. On the left side is the text “RZECZPOSPOLITA POLSKA” which is diagonally placed from lower left to upper right. On the right and left side and bottom half of the design are wooden planks and includes the commemorative dates “CIEPIELÓW 6.12.1942 – SIEDLISKA 15.03.1943 – MARKOWA 24/03/1944” incused in three lines.
The 20 Zlotych coin is struck by the Mint of Poland in sterling silver with a weight of 28 grams and a diameter of 38.6 mm. Struck with an antique finish, the coin is limited to 40,000 pieces. A two Zlotych circulation coin is also available which is struck in nordic gold with a weight of 8.1 grams and a diameter of 27 mm. A total mintage of 800,000 pieces has been authorized.
For more information on this and other coins, please visit the website (currently only available in Polish) of the Mint of Poland’s retail shop at: http://www.skarbiecmennicy.pl/polecane/20-zl-polacy-ratujacy-zydow-2012-oc.html