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    Maria Jadwiga Kwaśniewska-Maleszewska – The girl who mocked Adolf Hitler

    The story of one photograph and how it embodied the feeling of the Polish nation.

    It was August 1936, at the Olympic Games in Berlin. There were three Javelinists on the podium, but only two of them greeted Hitler with the characteristic raised hand, the Nazi salute. The third one wore a tracksuit with the Polish emblem and stood motionless, not even considering raising her hand to greet Hitler. A moment later, she was escorted to the honor box, so that the Führer could congratulate her. I congratulate a small Pole, said Hitler, the unexpected answer follows You’re not so tall, yourself. 

    Because he was 1.60m tall in a hat, and I was 1.66m. So there was general laughter. The German press later said that Hitler congratulated not as little Pole, but little Poland. They didn’t know get out of the situation. – Maria Kwaśniewska

    Kwaśniewska even received the informal Miss Olympics title, hence the reason she was invited to the private lodge to meet Hitler. The chancellor wanted to personally congratulate the best javelin throwers. During the meeting, the Chancellor of the Reich was photographed with three javelinists. Later on the copy of the photo was handed to Maria as a souvenir. She didn’t realize how important the picture would later become.  Three years on, that photo proved to be a literal life saver for many people. 

    Kwasniewska lived in, a part of Warsaw at the time, 10km from Lesna Podkowa. There was a camp in Pruszków, a kind of sorting house in which the Germans were separating people: men from women and those going to Auschwitz or to the labor camp. There was also a so-called barrack of the sick. Kwasniewska was escorting prisoners from there. As she revealed years later she would rescue 50 to 100 people at a time. Many asked how she did it, why did the Nazi soldiers allow her to pass?  I just showed my photograph with Hitler at the gate. The gendarmes treated me like ausweis. They would salute and let me travel. I took people out to Pruszków, then took them home to Podkowa. In my house I had a transit camp. Many people have passed through my home, some of them very famous -Said Maria Kwaśniewska

    Maria Kwaśniewska was born on August 15, 1913 in Łódź as the only daughter of Jan and Wiktoria Kozłowski. She was 23 when her act of defiance shook the world.

    Maria Kwaśniewska, prior to heading to Berlin, enjoyed several successes as a Javelinist, Powerlifter and Pentathlete. She broke the national record 5 times, as such she was well known and liked in Poland. However, it was the bronze medal she won in 1936 that changed her life. Her famous throw of 41.8 m was included in the film “Olympiad” by Leni Riefenstahl.

    When the war ended Maria Kwaśniewska returned to sport. In 1946 she became the Polish champion javelin thrower for the fifth time.

    Maria Kwaśniewska-Maleszewska died on October 17, 2007. She loved people and, despite her busy life, she always found time to help them. She was once quoted a saying, People are not perfect, sometimes they’re vicious, so what? (…) Men have a mind to think and a heart to love. Only then we are fully human and live a full life.

    Poland was the only nation or state that did not collaborate with either the Soviet or the German occupants, nor create a collaborating government, on the contrary it created a great underground state.  Many Poles shared Maria Kwaśniewska’s attitude, most of them were visible to the entire world, however it reflected the state of the soul of the entire Polish nation.




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