The diplomats, led by the Polish ambassador to Switzerland at the time, Aleksander Ładoś, produced passports of Latin American countries which helped hundreds of Jews escape from Poland at a time when the country was under Nazi German occupation.
The so-called Eiss Archive has been purchased by Poland’s government after more than a year of negotiations, the PAP news agency reported, citing the Polish embassy in the Swiss capital Bern and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in southern Poland.
"The collection includes eight passports of Paraguay fabricated by Polish diplomats with the aim of saving Jews as well as unique and never-used pictures of people applying for such passports,” said Piotr M.A. Cywiński, head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, as quoted by PAP.
The archive also includes an original list with several thousand names of Jews from ghettos and documents including correspondence between Polish diplomats and Jewish organisations, Cywiński added.
The collection originally belonged to Chaim Eiss (1867-1943), an Orthodox Jewish activist who was a member of the Bern-based group led by Ładoś, which forged Latin American passports to save Jews.
After Eiss died of a heart attack in November 1943, one of his descendants took the documents to Israel. Talks about bringing them to Poland began last summer, according to PAP.
Poland’s current ambassador to Switzerland, Jakub Kumoch, has told PAP that "the purchase of the collection was made possible by the support of [Polish] Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński."
The documents will for a few months remain in Bern, where they will be exhibited, PAP reported. Early next year the collection is expected to arrive in Poland, where it will undergo conservation and be thoroughly analysed by archivists and historians at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, according to PAP.
It is estimated that the Bernese group of diplomats produced from several hundred to several thousand fake passports between 1941 and 1943.
The Speaker of Poland’s Senate, Stanisław Karczewski, in February unveiled a plaque in Bern, commemorating the Polish diplomats who helped save Jews from the Holocaust.