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How to love a child? A description of a person who truly loved children, for the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day.


Doctor Henryk Goldszmit was born in Warsaw to a wealthy Jewish family in July 1878. When he was a five-year-old boy, so his diary recalls, he had some hard thoughts about the world he was born into:


'I revealed to Grandma in an intimate conversation my daring plans to change the world... the plan was to get rid of all the money in the world. How to and where, and what to do next, I did not know... the problem was far more complicated and difficult: If only there would be no more dirty, worn-out, and hungry children with whom I wasn't allowed to play with in the yard.'


At the age of 20, he began to study medicine in Warsaw, and by the end of his studies, he worked as a doctor in a children's hospital. He lived in the hospital's complex and cared for the children around the clock. He received patients from the poor working-class neighborhood without charging them a fee and, sometimes, even gave them money for medicine. In the early 20th century, he traveled throughout Europe researching childcare practices. In London, as mentioned in his diary, he made the internal decision to never have his own family and rather to dedicate his life to caring for children.


In 1912, together with Stefania Wilczyńska, he established an orphanage in Warsaw for Jewish children. It was a very unusual educational institution run through a democratic children's parliament and a children's court. Each of the orphans had the right to summon one of the house occupants who had harmed him or committed an offense, and even the orphanage director was not immune from the trial.


Goldszmit has written books on pedagogy; one of the best known is "How to Love a Child". He believed that the educator's word can only affect the child if the educator maintains "spiritual hygiene", a true inner belief in the child's inner good. He wrote in his book the famous sentence, "There is no bad child, there is a child who feels bad and therefore takes out his frustration."


During the years he ran the orphanage, he wrote children's books under the pen name Janusz Korczak. He founded the first newspaper for children and youth in Poland which was written entirely by children. In addition, he had his own top-rated radio show, in which he addressed children directly and talked to them as equals. However, racial segregation and the boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930s pressured Polish media, eventually leading to the newspaper and the radio program's shut down.


After the orphanage was moved to the ghetto, Goldszmit repeatedly received offers promising him a safe rescue, but he refused to abandon the children. In August 1942, Stefania Wilczyńska and Goldszmit told the orphanage's children that they were taking them for a walk outside the ghetto to see fields, forests, and flowers. Each child was asked to take a favorite toy or a beloved book with them. The children and the staff marched from the orphanage to the trains leading to the Treblinka extermination camp. Goldszmit marched at the head holding the youngest children in his arms. The children, Wilczyńska and Goldszmit, were all murdered in the Treblinka death camp.


Precious writings remained from what Goldszmit left behind, and his educational conception serves as an inspiration to many educators worldwide. He also left fascinating personal diaries, which hold his private thoughts. He wrote a short prayer on one of the dairy's pages, "Give me, God, a hard but beautiful, rich, and noble life." This prayer seemed to have come true.



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