With the stroke of a pen, Father Józef Czapran helped save many Jews in the Holocaust.
Holocaust survivor and decorated retired U.S. Naval Officer Andrew Jampoler, who was rescued during WWII along with his mother and cousin, gathered with his extended family this week at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, to commemorate the six million Jews of Europe and North Africa who were murdered during the Holocaust and honor Father Józef Czapran, a Catholic priest from Poland, who saved them from the same fate.
At the outbreak of WWII, Łucja (Lucy) Jampoler, her son Karol and his wife Hanka lived near the city of Lwów. When it became clear that all the Jews were being forced to relocate to the local ghetto, the Jampoler family approached Father Czapran for assistance.
At great personal risk, he secured false papers attesting to their Christian identity, including forged birth and marriage certificates, thus allowing them to remain on the “Aryan” side of the city.
In December 1941, Łucja managed to bring her niece, Irena Stella (Irka) Wilder, from Stanisławów to Lwów, and Father Czapran also gave her a forged birth certificate. In January 1942, Hanka gave birth to her son, Andrew. The priest arranged falsified papers for Andrew, as well. He also organized a nun to teach Irena Catholic customs and prayers, to help avoid any revelation of her Jewish identity.
After their hiding place was compromised sometime in 1942, the Jampolers and Irena escaped to Warsaw. Karol vanished, never to be heard from again. Father Czapran continued to help the Jampoler family in Warsaw and was instrumental in their survival until liberation.
In 1946, the family immigrated to the U.S. Andrew Jampoler served in the U.S. Navy, and later became a renowned author. Irka immigrated to Australia, where she lives today.
‘Enabled the Free Lives of Our Children’
On January 24, 2022, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, posthumously recognized Father Józef Czapran as Righteous Among the Nations, people who risked their lives to save Jews during the cataclysmic period.
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan opened the recent ceremony at Yad Vashem. “The Holocaust was a time when people were indifferent or fearful to act and stand up to the persecution and murder of other human beings,” he remarked. “But there were a few who risked their lives and the lives of their families – and even their neighbors – to help save Jews during the Holocaust.”
“Every year we recognize many new Righteous Among the Nations, the State of Israel’s highest honor on behalf of the Jewish people, bestowed on those few individuals who acted bravely and selflessly, and we are grateful to have this special event to commemorate the actions of Father Józef Czapran,” he said.
Three generations of the Jampoler family, including Andrew and his half-sisters, daughter Christina Jampoler Houlahan, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the State of Pennsylvania and an Air Force veteran, and Rep. Houlahan’s children all traveled to Israel to attend the emotional event at Yad Vashem.
“We’re all here at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to honor the memory of Father Józef Czapran, whose sympathy and extraordinary courage made survival during that dark time possible, and in turn enabled the free lives of our children and grandchildren,” remarked Andrew Jampoler. “Like me, they too are the beneficiaries of his courage and compassion.”
Rep. Houlahan pondered whether Father Czapran could have known the impact of his actions when “back in 1942 or ’43, with the stroke of a pen, he saved so many of my father’s family. I would like to imagine that decades ago Father Czapran knew exactly what he was setting into motion. We are all here today to give thanks to the generosity and bravery of a man whom none of us ever knew.”
Yad Vashem has recognized about 28,000 Righteous Among the Nations.