The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold for the twelfth consecutive year a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day/Yom Hashoah (April 28) - the only one dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the years of torment in Europe.
Some 200 Border Patrol Cadets – who will provide an honor guard - and 200 high school students will participate in the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers and survivors.
The ceremony will take place at the Martyrs' Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza at 10:00 a.m.
This year’s event will memorialize the rescue activities of Jonas Eckstein (1902-1971) who was an active member of the Jewish community and a successful wrestler in “Hakoach” Jewish sport club in Bratislava.
His sporting activities allowed Eckstein to befriend city officials and police which later facilitated his rescue activities.
His diverse activity touched thousands of people over a period of two and half years and encompassed food distribution to Jewish prisoners with government authorization which he utilized to clandestinely deliver food to hidden Jews along with information vital for their survival; hosting orphans from Poland and facilitating their conveyance to pre-state Israel via Hungary; hosting Jews who fled to Slovakia from Auschwitz; hosting and conveying Polish Jews to the relative safety of Hungary; and hiding Jews in bunkers – including one he dug under his own basement.
Eckstein was imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo and pressured by the Jewish leaders to hand over hidden Jews.
Many of the operations undertaken by Jonas Eckstein were done in the framework of the Jewish community and the “Working Group” headed by Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl and Gisi Fleischmann, but most of his activity was undertaken at his own initiative while risking his own life and the lives of his wife and infant daughter.
His heroism was known for years only among Jewish survivors from Bratislava.
Like many other rescuers, Jonas Eckstein did not speak of his rescue activities and many details remain obscure till this day.
Jonas Eckstein will be represented at the ceremony by his daughter Tova Taitelbaum and his grandson, Kol Israel reporter Benny Taitelbaum.
Guests of honor will be MK Amram Mitzna, Chair of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee and Slovak ambassador Hon. Radovan Javorcik. Also speaking: KKL-JNF Chairman Effi Stenzler and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Dr. Haim V. Katz.
During the ceremony a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center on seven rescuers or their next of kin: Efraim Agmon, Moshe Alpan, Neshka & Tzvi Goldfarb, Miriam & Yitzhak Roth from Hungary and Jacob Maestro from Greece.
Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, 70 awards have been presented to rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland and Hungary.
The event will be held at the Martyrs' Forest – a joint Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF)/B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust in 6 million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem Mountains near Moshav Kesalon.
At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rappaport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish People in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel in a moving base relief.
Program For April 28:
9:00-9:30: Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to soldiers in the Forest
9:45: Coalesce in “Scroll of Fire” Plaza
10:00: Siren peal and ceremony commencement
11:00: Ceremony conclusion
11:00-11:30: Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to students in the forest
The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to classes of soldiers.
The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe are yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance.
Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that some Jews survived the Holocaust in Europe or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven and by doing resisted the Nazi murder machine.
The few rescuers who are still alive remain reluctant till today to recount their stories, satisfied in the knowledge that they were able to overcome the German tormentors and their collaborators.
Considering the fact that many of the rescuers were young at the time of their activity, the organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to the phenomena of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.