Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Janusz Korczak begins innovative educational programs in Polish  orphanage

This year, Janusz Korczak (1878-1942), educator, physician and writer, was appointed as director of a orphanage in Warsaw. Along with another educator, Stefania Wilczynska, he practiced many of his educational ideas based on his belief that children should be respected and listened to, rather than shaped and trained to according to the wants of adults.

In the following years, Korczak founded the first national childrenīs newspaper, instructed at boarding schools and universities, and worked in juvenile courts defending children's rights. His books How to Love a Child and The Childīs Right to Respect provided teachers and parents with new insights into child psychology. He also wrote books for children such as the classic King Matt the First, which tells of the adventures and tribulations of a boy king who aspires to bring reforms. He also wrote the draft of a Declaration of Children's Rights ( in 1924, more than half a century before the Geneva Convention.

Janusz Korczak was killed in 1942 by the Nazis, during the Holocaust. When Korczak was offered the opportunity to save his own life, he refused, saying that he could not be separated from his orphans. "You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this," he said. He led the march of almost two hundred children and ten adults towards the cattle cars holding a hand of a child on each side, singing. He was later killed with the orphans in Treblinka, a death camp.

In 1979, Janusz Korczak was named UNESCO's 'Man of the Year.'


DS November 2001

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