“The King of Children”(The Life and Death of Janusz Korczak) By Betty Jean Lifton, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 1997, USA

The King of Children (front cover)Reformer of the World Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit) is celebrated in Poland 2012 as Korczak’s Year.

Watch: “Video Dance Memorial, dedicated to Janusz Korczak”

This composition was created by Kareen Balsam & Vita Berezina Blackburn.

“Even though many decades have elapsed since his death, Korczak remains ahead of his time.” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Janusz Korczak was known throughout Europe as a Pied Piper of destitute children even before the onslaught of World War II. But on August 6, 1942, Korczak stepped into legend. Refusing offers for his own safety, and with defiant dignity, he led the orphans under his care in the Warsaw Ghetto to the trains that would take them to Treblinka where they perished together.

An educator and pediatrician, Korczak his pseudonym, real name Henryk Goldszmit {1878-1942}, introduced progressive orphanages for both the Jewish and Catholic children in Warsaw. Determined to shield his children from the injustices of the adult world, he built these orphanages into “just communities? with their parliaments and children’s courts. Korczak also founded the first national children’s newspaper, testified on behalf of children in juvenile courts, and trained teachers and parents in “moral education”, with his books “How to Love a Child” and “how to Respect a Child”.

Watch our photo expose from this book:


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This is his Declaration of Children’s Rights:

The child has the right to love.

(Korczak: “Love the child, not just your own.”

The child has the right to respect.

(Korczak: “Let us demand respect for shining eyes, smooth foreheads, youthful effort and confidence. Why should dulled eyes, a wrinkled brow, untidy gray hair, or tired resignation command greater respect?’

The child has the right to optimal conditions in which to grow and develop.

(Korczak: “We demand: do away eith hunger, cold, dampness, stench, overcrowding, overpopulation.”

The child has the right to live in the present.

(Korczak: “Children are not people of tomorrow, they are people today.”

The child has the right to be himself or herself.

(Korczak: “A child is not a lottery ticket, marked to win the main prize.”

The child has the right to make mistakes.

(Korczak: “There are no more fools among children than among adults.”                                                                  The King of Children (frontispiece)

The child has the right to fail.

(Korczak: “We renounce the deceptive longing for perfect children.”

The child has the right to be taken seriously.

(Korczak: ” Who asks the child for his opinion and concern?’

The child has the right to be appreciated for what he is or she is.

(Korczak: ” The child, being small, has little market value.”

The child has the right to desire, to claim, to ask.

(Korczak: ” As the years pass, the gap between adult demands and children’s desires becomes progressively wider.”)

The child has the right to have secrets.

(Korczak: ” Respect their secrets.”

The child has the right to “a lie, a deception, a theft”.

(Korczak: “He does not have the right to lie, deceive, steal.”)

If a person didn’t have a single chance as a child to pick out the raisins in a cake and pinch them a bit in secret, then he isn’t honest; he won’t be honest when his character has been formed.

The child has the right to respect for his possessions and budget.

(Korczak: ” Everyone has the right to his property, no matter how insignificant or valueless.”)

The child has the right to education.

The child has the right to resist educational influence that conflicts with his or her beliefs.

(Korczak: ” It is fortunate for mankind that we are unable to force children to yield to assaults upon their common sense and humanity.”

The child has the right to protest an injustice.

(Korczak: ” We must end despotism.”

The child has the right to a Children’s Court where he can judge and be judged by his peers.

(Korczak: ” We are the sole judges of the child’s actions, movements, thoughts, and plans… I know that a Children’s Court is essential, that in fifty years there will not be a single school, not a single institution without one.”)

The child has the right to be defended in the juvenile-justice court system.

(Korczak: “The delinquent child is still a child…Unfortunately, suffering bred of poverty spreads like lice: sadism, crime, uncouth, and brutality are nurtured on it.”)

The child has the right to respect for his grief.

(Korczak: ” Even though it be for the loss of a pebble.”)

The child has the right to commune with God.

The child has the right to die prematurely.

(Korczak: ” The mother’s profound love for her child must give him the right to premature death, to ending his life cycle in only one or two springs…Not every bush grows into a tree.”)

Reading this book about the great man on page 63, we see his personality:

“The eldest of the Eliasbergs’ four daughters, Helena, remembered how she and her sisters looked forward to the nights the funny doctor came to work with the architects:” We had never seen a grownup like him. He kissed our handes when he arrived as if we were ladies, and came over to us from time to time to laugh and joke. He even let us draw on his bald head with colored pencils he was using on his blueprints.”

And further down:

“Suddenly perceiving his life as “disordered, lonely, and cold”, hr saw himself as a shabby stranger, alienated and alone. And it came to him with sudden clarity that the son of a madman. ” a slave who is a Polish Jew under Russian occupation”, had no right to bring a child into the world.

The realization “cut through him like a knife”, he would write, and immediately he felt as if he had “committed suicide”. The child he might have fathered died with him at that moment, but there emerged a “revitalized”  man who took for a son “the idea of serving the child and his rights”.

And Janusz Korczak served this idea devotedly and up to the end, having died in gaz chambers in Treblinka together with his children.

Weep, the Mankind, for a great soul of such a rare person and glory to him.

Watch movie:“Janusz Korczak” (Part 1/3) “Janusz Korczak” (Part 2/3)

“Janusz Korczak” (Part 3/3)