Professor Waclaw Szybalski D.Sc. Professor Emeritus of Oncology
Anna Ferens’ documentary on the life of University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus Waclaw Szybalski premiered in Madison, Wisconsin.
Professor Szybalski’s research contributed to an understanding of the genetic basis of drug resistant bacterial infections and the development of multiple drug therapies. His DNA research is used in the development of cancer treatments.
Both the film and discussion included Professor Szybalski’s life in Poland. He shared his love of his home of Lvov, Poland which before WWII was a diverse city with a Slavic and Jewish Polish majority along with Ukrainians and others. He spoke of the Nazis’ extermination the Jews of Lvov then the Soviets’ ethnically cleansing Lvov of Slavic Poles by expulsions and murder. Lvov is now the almost 100% Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine.
Professor Szybalski participated in the resistance. The Soviets were allied with the Nazis from 1939 to 1941 and occupied about 1/2 of Poland. Trains crossed occupied Poland with Soviet supplies essential for their Nazi allies to wage war. On their return trip, the trains were often filled with anti-Soviet Poles being deported to Siberia. Among the earliest acts of resistance were attacks on those trains.
He also participated in resistance against the Holocaust which moved me to write this open letter.
Dear Professor Szybalski:
During the questions and answers after the December 8, 2014 premier of “The Essence of Life”, you shared how you helped gather information on the location and layout of one of the extermination camps. That information was smuggled out to the Allies with a plea to bomb the camps and their rail lines.
The Allies did not bomb the camps for reasons unrelated to the information you and others supplied.
The Nazi’s and Soviet’s conquests of Poland placed most of the victims of the Holocaust beyond the reach of rescue by military action for most of the war. After 1939, about the victims’ only hope was for the Allies to militarily defeat the Nazis as quickly as possible.
At great personal risk you succeeded in gathering intelligence on the Holocaust and sharing that with the world.
Professor Szybalski, you did not fail.
Yours, Leonard H. Cizewski
Links, sources, and more information:
McCardle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health:
50 years of gene therapy: the contribution of Professor Wacław Szybalski to science and humanity, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences
My nephew-in-law Marshall Begel was my editor for my open letter. He reviewed this for accuracy and clarity along with spelling and grammar.
In depth historical background and context are occasional features of my family history blog.
Revised: September 7, 2015