From the Foreword (by Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner for Human Rights, CoE):
Korczak – our teacher on the rights of the child
Janusz Korczak is said to have once described himself as “a doctor by training, a pedagogue by chance, a writer by passion, and a psychologist by necessity”.
He was well known at the time in his native Poland in all these capacities, but what made him a legend was his desperate struggle to shield the Jewish orphans from the atrocities in the Warsaw Ghetto. He refused to leave them when the Nazis decided in August 1942 that they were to be executed, rejecting offers to save his own life. He died in Treblinka together with the 192 children and his co-workers from the orphanage.
Janusz Korczak is remembered by many for the way his life ended but by some also for how he lived and what he said and wrote. UNESCO declared 1978-79 as the Year of Korczak to mark the centenary of his birth – this coincided with the United Nations (UN) Year of the Child. Some of his writings have been translated into other languages, there are Janusz Korczak societies in several countries and child rights activists often refer to his writings.
No doubt he had an influence when the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was drafted in the 1980s. Still, his teaching deserves more attention. Korczak was one of those thinkers who was ahead of his time. Some of his ideas are still not fully understood and they are absolutely relevant to the work for children’s rights today.
The publication presents an English translation of one of Korczak’s more well-known texts, The Child’s Right to Respect, in which he summarised his thinking on the relationship between children and adults. It is introduced by Sven Hartman, Professor of Pedagogy at the Stockholm University and followed by a moving testimony of Irena Sendlerova who herself tried to save children from the Nazi brutalities in the Ghetto and who saw Korczak, his colleagues and all the children from “My home” being marched to their death.Download Publication