Posted by: Bystander PJ13 MAR 2013
The Polish city of Kraków has two pharmacy-related museums. One, full of old pharmacy fittings and equipment, is reputed to be Europe’s largest collection of pharmacy memorabilia. The other, housed in a former pharmacy, is one of the world’s most poignant museums.
In 1941, two years after the German occupation of Poland, the Nazi authorities established a Jewish ghetto in Kraków’s Podgórze district. Within the walled enclave were four pre-war pharmacies owned by non-Jewish pharmacists. Three accepted an offer of relocation elsewhere in the city, but Tadeusz Pankiewicz chose to stay, running his Apteka Pod Orlem (“Pharmacy Under the Eagle”) as the only pharmacy serving the 15,000 Jews who had been crammed into the ghetto.
By supplying scarce medicines, often free, Pankiewicz greatly improved the quality of life of the ghetto’s residents. But he and his three non-Jewish female assistants did much more. They risked their lives by undertaking numerous clandestine activities: they smuggled in information and food; they sheltered Jews facing deportation to extermination camps; they helped arrange false documents; they supplied hair dyes to those needing to disguise their identities; and they provided tranquillisers to keep children silent during Gestapo raids.
In February 1983, Israel recognised Tadeusz Pankiewicz as “righteous among the nations”, an honorific bestowed on non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination. In April that year Pankiewicz also attended the inauguration of Poland’s Museum of National Remembrance, housed in his former pharmacy.
Pankiewicz died in 1993, a month before the opening of the Oscar-winning film ‘Schindler’s list’, in which his pharmacy is featured. He is buried in Krakó