On November 23, 1939, Hans Frank, head of the Nazi Government General that ruled central Poland, declared that all Jews above ten years of age were to wear a white badge with a Star of David on their right arm. By October of 1940, almost 400,000 Polish Jews had been confined in a 3.5 square mile ghetto in Warsaw, an area which normally housed about 160,000 people. The Warsaw ghetto was surrounded by a wall 10 feet high that was sealed off on November 15, 1940. Jews were forbidden to go outside the area on penalty of being shot on sight.
One day, a young Jewish woman who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto a few days before it was sealed shut, was riding on a streetcar when Gestapo men boarded and began checking identity papers. The woman had no papers and was not wearing the Jewish star. In a panic she turned to an older Polish gentleman sitting next to her, and in a whisper begged his help. He yelled, “Foolish woman, how can you be so stupid?”
A Gestapo officer quickly walks over asking, “What is going on?” The man looks at the Jewish woman and says, “I tell her every day to remember to carry her papers with her. Now this idiot tells me she left them in the hall closet.” The Gestapo officer smiles, shrugs his shoulders and passes by.
Months later the woman tells her story to some other Jews who are also in hiding. The story survived. I do not know if the woman did. There must have been thousands of incidents like this, where a Jew was rescued and then later murdered. Thus, they have never been reported to the Israeli organization Yad V’Shem, that already has honored over 6.400 Poles who rescued Jews.
After the end of the communist oppression in Poland, a small but increasing number of Poles found out from older family members, that they had Jewish roots from one or more of their ancestors. Some of these Poles have been drawn to Jewish music, culture or religion and some of them have even become Jewish.
Allen S. Maller, an American Reform Progressive Rabbi, who is a teacher of the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbalah, states that those who are drawn to Jewish life, and especially those who become Jewish in Poland, already have a (gilgul) Jewish mind/soul/temperament that they inherited from one of their own Jewish ancestors. Not everyone has a gilgul mind/soul/temperament. Many people have new ‘first time here’ mind/soul/temperaments.
Those who are certain they have no Jewish ancestors for at least five to seven generations back, may be new mind/souls; or they may be a descendent of a Pole who once helped rescue a Jew who was in great danger from a Polish denouncer or a German soldier.
An example of this rare pattern of a descendent of a helpful Non-Jew becoming Jewish 3-4 generations later, occurred more than a decade ago in New York, where the great-grandson of President Roosevelt (FDR) became Jewish.
He is now a Reform Rabbi in New England. Rabbi Boettiger says he isn’t sure how FDR would have reacted, (FDR refused Jewish requests that he order the U.S. Army Air Force to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz) but Rabbi Boettiger is sure that FDR’s wife Eleanor, who was much more liberal, and helpful to minorities than her husband, “would have gotten a kick” out of his decision to become a rabbi. If Rabbi Boettiger does have a Jewish gilgul mind/soul/temperament; it is probably from Eleanor Roosevelt.