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...At the beginning of World War Two, Abraham Foxman's family fled from
their city of origin, Baranowicz, to Vilna. Foxman's father, Josef
Foxman, was one of the leaders of the Revisionist Zionist Organization and
the editor of the Revisionist newsletter Blau Weiss. Josef was arrested
and sent to a concentration camp after one of the first selections
following Vilna's capture by the Nazis in 1941. His wife escaped from the
ghetto and posed as an Aryan. When Abraham was handed over to Bronislawa
Korpi by his parents, he was a year and a half old, and an only child.
"My parents gave me to Brunia without hesitation," Foxman says. "The
Polish Catholic worked in our home and was treated as a member of the
As a pious Catholic, Brunia was quick to baptize the Jewish toddler in
a neighborhood church. Her decision to raise the Jewish infant involved
a risk to her own life.
"Because I was circumcised, Brunia would have been put to death if the
Nazis had discovered that she was hiding me."
Foxman's mother, who lived in the Aryan Quarter, occasionally risked a
visit to her infant son and brought him food. Korpi proved to be a
devoted caretaker, who saw to the protection of the infant's soul, as well
as his physical needs, when she had him baptized.
Foxman vaguely remembers that Korpi treated him like a member of the
family and saw to all his needs during the period when she cared for him.
He was not aware of his Jewish heritage.
Immediately after the war, a tortuous chapter began in the life of the
toddler Abraham Foxman, or Henrik Stanislav Korpi. After returning to
Vilna, Foxman's parents decided to live temporarily in Lodz, and "It was
only natural that Brunia would join us in Lodz," Foxman says.
However, even after his father assisted and supported Korpi, she
refused to return the child to his parents. "The child was baptized as a
Christian and will remain a Christian," she said.
At first, Foxman says, "My father tried to avoid an argument, and he
tried to get me back by means of persuasion."
But Korpi insisted that she would not return the boy to his parents. In
order to undermine any attempts by the father to get his son back,
Korpi turned to the KGB in Lodz. She informed on Josef and caused him to be
On the advice of the KGB, Foxman's parents sued Korpi and demanded in
court that he be identified as a Jew and returned to his family of
origin. The court battle extended for a year and a half.
However, even after the court found that Abraham was a Jew, and ordered
Korpi to return him to his parents, the devoted Catholic woman did not
surrender. She kidnapped Abraham twice and hid him.
"With the help of friends in Lodz, my father discovered where I was
hidden and took me back," Foxman says. Foxman's parents decided to leave
Poland in order to get over the trauma of the battle in court. They
lived in Austria for years, and later emigrated to the United States.
Foxman's father continued to send money to Korpi.
Several weeks ago, Foxman met with Pope John Paul II. "I asked him to
pray for Brunia's memory, the woman who saved my life," Foxman says.
"The existence of the Vatican document ordering that Jewish children not
be returned to their families, was publicized several days after I met
with the Pope, and I suddenly understood why Brunia struggled to keep me
as a Christian," Foxman continues. "I believe that the priest in the
church where I prayed with Brunia told her about the Vatican letter and
ordered her not to return me because I was baptized."
Foxman is convinced that "there are now thousands of people who are
unaware, and we are unaware, that they were born as Jews and baptized as
Christians by the Catholics that saved them during the Nazi occupation.
The children's saviors are now dead, and their secrets were buried with
He said the newly revealed document "made me very sad. The rescue of
children by Catholics was a noble chapter, but in retrospect, the order
not to return children robs the rescue of its human significance. They
didn't save children. They wanted to save souls."
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surrounding Matthew Bronfman's bid for the state's stake in the bank.
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