Januz Korczak was born Henryk Goldszmit to a secular Jewish family in Warsaw, in 1878 or 1879 (his father failed to register his birth, hence the uncertainty). A physician, educator, and author, he is remembered for his unique attitude toward children, and for his utter dedication to the young Jewish orphans in his care in the Warsaw ghetto.
Doctor & Educator
Korczak received his medical training in Poland, then continued his studies in Germany, France, and England before beginning his work as a physician at the Berson-Bauman Jewish children’s hospital in Warsaw. In 1912 he became the director of the Jewish Orphans’ Home, a position he held until the home’s liquidation by the Nazis in 1942. In addition, Korczak founded the Child Rearing Institute, a home for Catholic children.
These institutions put into practice Korczak’s unique approach to education, which emphasized respect and compassion for children. Both homes featured a self-governing society that included a parliament, court, newspaper, and a system of duties designed to promote law and order, active involvement, and mutual caretaking among the children. Encouraging independence in children was a primary goal for Korczak, who believed that “children shall not be, but rather already are, people.” In both homes, Korczak doted on the children, who, in turn, grew attached to him.
In addition to the two orphanages, Korczak founded a children’s newspaper called Maly Przeglad (The Little Review), as a weekly supplement to the General Zionist daily Nasz Przeglad (Our Review). In accordance with Korczak’s principles, the newspaper was written by and for children, without adult interference.
As a writer, Korczak produced 24 books, as well as hundreds of additional texts that included works for children, autobiographical writings, essays exploring social and pedagogical issues, and medical articles.
Korczak was respected throughout Poland as an expert on children’s issues, and he fought passionately for children’s rights. Among his most important contributions to the cause are the books The Child’s Right to Respect and How to Love a Child.