Monday, October 11, 2010
Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian P. Opala has passed away, according to court officials. He was 89 years old.
Opala, who has been on the Supreme Court since 1978, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1921. When war broke out between Nazi Germany and Poland in 1939, he enlisted in the Polish Army. After the defeat of Poland, he joined the Polish Underground. He left Poland for a few years, with orders to connect with Polish troops serving in the British armed forces in the Mediterranean and Africa. He served with them briefly in Italy, before parachuting back into Poland to rejoin the Underground.
Opala was captured by the Nazis in the brutal put-down of the Polish Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and was imprisoned in Flossenbürg concentration camp (where theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed). When the U.S. Army liberated the camp, he became friends with a captain in the 45th Infantry Division from Oklahoma City. Opala emigrated to Oklahoma in part due to this friendship. He became a U.S. citizen, attended law school, and entered the judicial system. Gov. David Boren appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1978, and he had been retained as judge ever since then.