Henryk Sławik

Journalist, social activist

He was born on 15th July 1894 in Szeroka (a district of Jastrzębie-Zdrój now). After finishing primary school he worked as a worker. In 1911 he was conscripted into the Prussian Army, he was taken prisoner by Russians. In December 1918 he came back to Upper Silesia. He was a member of Polish Socialist Party and joined Polish Military Organisation of Upper Silesia. He took part in the First Silesian Uprising. After finishing Polish Military Organization courses, on behalf of Polish Socialist Party he became an organisation work manager and a plebiscite clerk in Kozielsk county and he took part in the resistance. In the Second Silesian Uprising he took part in actions against Sicherheitspolizei. He carried plebiscite activities in Rybnik and Pszczyna counties. In the Third Silesian Uprising he took part in the mobilisation of Wodzisławski Regiment. In the Executive Department of the Supreme Uprising Authority he served as a press connector on area of military activities. He got the Cross on the Silesian Brace of Brave and Merit and the Cross of Independence for his services in Silesian Uprisings and the plebiscite.

From 1920 he cooperated with “Gazeta Robotnicza”. He worked his way up the ladder – from an associate to a publisher and Editor in Chief and he performed this function till the war outbreak. In 1934 he got onto the Supreme Council of Polish Socialist Party. From 1928 till 1930 he was a councillor of Katowice. In 1929 he had a seat on Silesian Voivodeship Council on behalf of Polish Socialist Party. On 14th July 1928 Henryk Sławik married Jadwiga Purzycka. After two years their daughter Krystyna was born.

In August 1939 he sent his family to his parents-in-law in Warsaw. He left Katowice because he was afraid of Germans. His surname was in Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Special Prosecution Book for Poland) with an annotation that he was to be put at Geheimes Stadsplitzeiamt disposal. In the last days of September 1939 Sławik reached Hungary. While staying in the refugee camp, he met Jozsef Antall thanks to whom he became the president of the Citizens Committee for the Care of Polish Refugees in Hungary. The committee’s tasks included caring for Polish refugees as well as initiating and supporting the activities of Polish social, cultural and economic organizations. Cooperating with Antall he took part in organising Polish education, he played an important part in moving Polish people to Polish Armed Forces. Sławik led Citizens’ Committee till March 1944 when the German occupation of Hungary started.

From the beginning of 1940 till 1944 thanks to Henryk Sławik and Jozsef Antall, 5000 Polish Jews were saved. At the end of 1943 his wife Jadwiga with their daughter got from Warsaw to Budapest. Despite the fact that the whole family had the possibility to leave for Switzerland, Sławik decided to stay in Hungary claiming that he could not abandon people who were entrusted to his care. When the Germans entered Hungary in 1944, his wife was arrested. She was sent to the Ra­vensbrück concentration camp.

In July 1944 Sławik and Antall fell into the Gestapo hands. The Germans had a rich dossier on Sławik’s activity but they wanted to get from him evidence incriminating Jozsef Antall. Sławik took all the responsibility onto himself. Antall recalled it this way: His face and head were stained with blood because of beating. But he had a determined look in his eyes. He looked at me with friendly devotion and straightened up and said: »I AM opposed – in the name of international law, morality and justice. Don’t accuse him. (…) From Svábhegy (the Gestapo arrest) we were taken back to prison. During the journey we were sitting side by side in the dark black car. I took him by the hand to thank him for saving my life. He whispered to me with a handshake – “That is how Poland pays” [a quote from H. T. Csorba, Ziemia węgierska azylem.]

Henry Sławik was hanged on 23rd August 1944 in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Jozsef Antall, to whom the Germans did not prove any guilt, was released. After the war he found Sławik’s daughter Krystyna who stayed nearby Balaton. Jadwiga survived the camp and her daughter joined her in summer 1945. On 6th November 1990 Henryk Sławik was posthumously honoured with Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and in 2010 President Lech Kaczyński honoured him with Order of the White Eagle.