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Janusz Korczak
Date: Polish, 1878 - 1942
Biography: In 1942 beloved educator, physician, author, and defender of children's rights, Janusz Korczak, born Henryk Goldszmit in 1878, was ordered by Nazi authorities as director of the Warsaw Ghetto orphanage to assemble the two hundred children under his charge for transport. Refusing offers to escape from the ghetto, Korczak and his assistant of thirty years, Stefania Wilczynska, accompanied the children in quiet protest accepting whatever consequences awaited them at Treblinka. Korczak had early success as a writer, but chose to study medicine and later to specialize in pediatrics and child psychology, because he valued this practical work as direct service to the world. He was conscripted in 1905 as a physician in the Russian army during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, returning in 1906, then serving again during the First World War, and paid close attention not only to the injuries inflicted on the combatants but to the social costs of war and the suffering of innocent children that resulted from the decisions of adults. This idea that adults do not always merit their superiority over children by virtue of the wisdom that allegedly accrues with age is a theme that runs through many of Korczak's writings, such his classic pedagogical work that originated as a pamphlet of advice for parents and teachers, How to Love a Child (1919-20), his novel, King Matt the First (1923), and his manifesto, "The Child's Right to Respect" (1929), which established many ideas that would become integrated into the twentieth-century discourse of children's rights. (from Polish Cultural Institute, NY)