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Oct 12, 1998

Irene Tomaszewski, Co-Author of Book on Zegota, to Speak at DePaul and Screen New Film on Jewish Rescue

Canadian author, editor and filmmaker Irene Tomaszewski will speak and screen a new film documentary about Zegota, a little-known underground effort to rescue Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 22 in the DePaul University Center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., 8th floor. The film, "Zegota: Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland (1942-45)," is narrated by actor Eli Wallach. Tomaszewski will be at DePaul as part of its Memory and Conscience series which is sponsored by the International Human Rights Law Institute.

Tomaszewski was born in a Soviet Gulag after her parents were arrested and deported from their home in Poland. She and her mother were evacuated from the Soviet Union in 1942 and spent six years in a refugee camp in East Africa. They were reunited with her father before coming to Canada in 1949.

Tomaszewski is the co-author of the book "Zegota: The Rescue of Jews in Wartime Poland," and the associate producer of the 1995 Galafilm/National Film Board documentary "A Web of War," which was shown on the Canadian Broadcasting System. She co-wrote the newest film about Zegota which will be screened before her lecture at DePaul. It was produced and directed by Sy Rotter of the Documentaries International Film and Video Foundation of Washington, D.C.

The new film describes the effort by Polish exiled leaders to save Jewish lives during the German occupation of Poland. They formed the "Council for Aid to Jews," which was the only government-sponsored social welfare agency established to rescue Jews in German-occupied Europe. This organization, given the code name "Zegota," provided hiding places and false identity documents for Jewish men, women, and children. Ultimately, Zegota’s efforts saved thousands of lives.

In the film, Zegota participants, Jewish survivors and Polish and Jewish historians recall and reflect on the unparalleled crime of genocide committed by the Nazis and of the extraordinary courage of people who risked their lives trying to save their Jewish brethren in wartime Poland.

DePaul started its Memory and Conscience series in 1996 to provide a forum for the university and the greater Chicago area to participate in discussions offered by noted experts and survivors of historical events with distinct human rights overtones.

Past series speakers have included Gerda Weissman Klein, Holocaust survivor and an Academy Award and Emmy winner for a documentary about her life; Miles Lerman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; and Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former Polish Foreign Minister and Auschwitz survivor.