Jewish Journal


April 20, 2012

Chosen to live and carry help to others – the story of Jerzy Einhorn.


While getting to know more and more about Jerzy Einhorn one starts to understand how powerful influence on forming young man’s mind had some appalling circumstances in the past. All that he had experienced while living in the ghetto in occupied Częstochowa and later when he lived in the internment camp “shaped” his psyche and left indelible mark on his mind and soul. Perhaps all the horrifying pictures of the death of the innocent and his helplessness lead him to become one of the most famous oncologist that was willing to carry disinterested help to the most needy.

        Jerzy Einhorn, known as a professor of radiotherapy and the director of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, was born on the 26th of July 1925 in Częstochowa. Since the early years of his childhood he was deeply devoted to his orthodox Jewish Yiddish – speaking family. His parents always surrounded him with solicitous care and protection and tried to impress on him all the necessary moral rules that he should follow in the future in his mature life. Young Josele was strongly fascinated with his father Pinkus, who was always giving him the feeling of safety and support. He was his authority, the model to epitomize that he strongly admired for his strength, determination and the ability of dealing with the difficult life situations. Sara instead, was always kind and open to his confessions, a perfect mother that always put her children’s wellness ahead of her own. [1]

          When back in primary school Josele realized that in Poland he would never be treated as a Pole but Jude – the representative of the worse nation that does not deserve the equal treatment. He always felt isolated and marked by his ancestry and religion. Both teachers and school children always kept him distance. He never played with his schoolmates, spending his breaks alone in the corner. Finally he moved to the Jewish school where ultimately started to live a normal life where he was totally accepted by the others. [2]

          Unfortunately soon he was forced to live isolated from a normal world that he knew. In 1939 the war began which brought years of suffering and humiliation. In 1940 the “Large Ghetto” emerged where Jewish people were gradually displaced. Life of Einhorns family started to be very difficult, although Pinkus Einhorn could still run his sewing business.

          Migration through the Ghetto’s gate was strictly forbidden, however many people risked their lives to cross the border and seek freedom. So called “selections” started to take place as well as massive transfers of Jews to the compulsory work camps. People were treated worse than animals, stuffed in cattle carriages and taken for early death. German soldiers shot Jews even if it was only for amusement and many times crushing little children’s heads on hard bricked walls indifferent to their mothers’ cries and pain.

          Young Jerzy was a witness to all of those gruesome happenings. He would never be able to forget about all of those people that were killed with cold blood by Germans. Later, in his written memoir, he said that the changes that had been made to his mind and soul during the war were totally irreversible. Living in those hard times he tried to keep at least small elements of a normal existence. All of the free time he had he tried to spend on learning from books that he had brought to the camp. He started to appreciate food, clothes and all the other goods that before the war he were available to him without any effort. Even though he saw so many nightmarish incidents he still believed that one day all this would be over. He never lost his hope which helped him survive that time. [3]

          Einhorn’s family managed to outlast the time of Operation Reinhard and abolishment of the “Large Ghetto”. They were moved to the “Small Ghetto” and started working for Mrs Mosiewicz in her sewing mill. Finally even that place was destroyed and Jerzy was sent to the Hasag – Pelcery work camp getting the prisoner’s number 3170. He was forced to live without his family and worked in the machine construction section. Nevertheless, each day he thought about freedom and the end of the war that was yet to come one day. When he reaches the age of eighteen and felt like his life run through his fingers. He couldn’t see his family but he felt their concern due to small packages with white bread and onions that they sent him through some young man. He treated the gifts from his parents as a treasure since he knew that they still thought of him. Soon his parents and his brother were moved to the craftsman’s house in the same camp that Jerzy lived. The family was together again which brought happiness to their hearts. Despite many transportations of Jews – Einhorn’s family succeeded to stay together in the camp.

          On the 16th of May 1945 soviet tanks arrived in Częstochowa. Germans retracted and all the imprisoned Jewish people were set free. Out of 39 thousands of Jews only 2118 survived. Many times Jerzy dreamt about that day and when it came he could not believe that it ultimately happened. He went back to school and got the secondary school certificate in the second High School in Częstochowa named after Romuald Traugutt. After graduation he started to study at the Medical University of Łódź where he met his future wife Nina. Unfortunately persecution of Jews did not ended completely with the end of the war. [4]

While Jerzy was in Denmark on the scholarship with some other students from Poland he got the information that one of the student’s from Łódź got killed and his body was left with a letter that contained threats addressed to other Jewish students. Jerzy and his parents decided that for his safety he should stayed abroad. Together with Nina and two other Jewish students Jerzy decided to go to Stockholm in Sweden since Denmark was closed for emigrants. The most helpful man appeared to be Gilel Storch from the World Jewish Congress. Jerzy and Nina started to study medicine at the Medical University in Uppsala. During that time Jerzy realized that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Nina because she was always there for him helping in all difficult moments. [5]

Young Einhorn got the offer to do his practice in the Domnarvets hospital placed in Borlänge. Later on in 1967 he started to work at Sweden’s prestigious institution of oncology, Radiumhemmet at the Karolinska Institute. He worked there for almost 38 years, helping people with cancer whose situations was the most dramatic. He was not only one of the most talented and diligent oncologist but also concerned with people’s problems politician. He pertained to the Group of the Christian Democrats and at the beginning of the 90’s he was the envoy of the Swedish Parliament. Many times he was awarded the highest ranks in the medial plebiscite of popularity.

Jerzy Einhorn owned his fame mostly to his medical achievements and perennial medical practice. During his medical work Einhorn won numerous prizes and distinctions. He was also one of the members of the Nobel Prize Committee and for over 25 years he was one of the people deciding about the Nobel Prize Laureate choice in the sphere of physiology and medicine. He stayed in hearts of so many people because of his selfless activities related to many improvements in the health care sector. He was a man easily respondent to people’s needs and their tragedy who always wanted to make people’s life better and easier. The remembrance of Jerzy Einhorn will stay in many people’s hearts and minds and thanks his featured memoir the recollection of the killed Jewish families will never be forgotten. [6]


[1] J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.12-15

[2] J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.23

[3] www.poloniainfo.se

[4] J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.162

[5] J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.190-197

[6] www.oil.org.pl

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