The Pharmacist of the Krakow Ghetto

The Fellowship  |  January 19, 2021

Tadeusz Pankiewicz, pharmacist in Krakow Ghetto, 1941
Tadeusz Pankiewicz, pharmacist in Krakow Ghetto, 1941

A Polish pharmacist during the Holocaust, Tadeusz Pankiewicz did much to help and save the Jews in the Krakow Ghetto.

Born and raised in Krakow, Poland, Tadeusz’s  father ran Krakow’s Under the Eagle Pharmacy until 1933, when Tadeusz took over, serving the city’s Gentiles and Jews alike.

When the Nazis invaded Poland, however, they closed off the district in which Tadeusz’s pharmacy sat, part of the ghetto to hold the city’s Jews. The ghetto’s three other Gentile-owned pharmacies took the Nazis’ offer of relocating outside of the restricted area. The brave pharmacist, however, chose to stay. He even chose to remain living at the pharmacy, though his workers received permits to come and go from the ghetto.

Life in the ghetto proved difficult, but Tadeusz tried to ease the pain for Krakow’s Jews. He provided medications and pharmaceutical products that saved their lives – and often gave these necessities away free of charge. Besides medicine, other things given to the ghetto’s Jews proved to be lifesavers. Hair dyes proved useful for disguises, while tranquilizers quited frightened Jewish children to keep them quiet (and alive) while hiding during Gestapo raids.

The pharmacy also acted as a headquarters for the ghetto’s underground. The pharmacist and his employees risked their own lives to smuggle food and information, as well as to hide Jews set to be deported to Nazi death camps. The pharmacy now stands as the Museum of National Remembrance. Featuring the pharmacy in his film Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg gave money so that the building could be preserved.

Yad Vashem honored Tadeusz Pankiewicz as Righteous Among the Nations by  in 1983 – ten years before his passing – and the righteous pharmacist also attended the inauguration of his lifesaving pharmacy as a landmark to teach generations to come of the Holocaust – both the evils perpetrated during this dark time, as well as the heroes who stood up against it.

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