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The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust have announced that they will bestow their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation on 15 nominees, all of them posthumously.

The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in 2011 in an effort to help correct the generally held misconception that Jews failed to come to the aid of fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date about 600 heroes have been honored for their rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Belgium, Ukraine, Latvia, Denmark, Algeria, the Czech Republic and Austria.

The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of many hundreds of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe from deportation and murder have yet to be fully researched and receive appropriate public attention. Many who could have tried to flee or hide themselves decided to stay and expose themselves to danger to rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism, Jews in Germany and every country across Axis and occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that Jews survived the Holocaust or assisted them in escaping to a safe haven. In doing so they foiled the Nazi goal of total annihilation of the Jews.

Recipients of the citation are:

1./2. Alfred Wetzler (1918-1988) and Rudolf Vrba (1924-2006), two Slovak Jews, escaped together from Auschwitz and composed the “Auschwitz Report” in April 1944 that provided the most detailed description of the gas chambers and mass murder up to that point. The report was released in June 1944 and, under pressure from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Hungarian ruler Regent Miklos Horthy ordered the transports to Auschwitz stopped. Some 120,000 Jews from Budapest were spared.

3. Baruch Shibi (1901-1978) was a member of the Zionist Movement in Greece and head of Division 3A in the Front for National Liberation (EAM) resistance movement. He participated in warning the Jews of Athens of their impending deportation and participated in smuggling many to hideouts in the mountains with the assistance of EAM fighters and Greek Orthodox clergy.

4. Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl (1918-1957) was head of the “Working Group” in Bratislava, Slovakia, together with his relative, Jewish rescuer Gisi Fleischmann. The “Working Group” was involved in a wide range of rescue activities: it sent agents to follow Slovak deportees to Poland to document their fate; convinced Slovak authorities to establish forced labor camps in order to prevent the Jews deportation; encouraged Jews to escape to Hungary and hid Jewish refugees from Poland. The “Working Group” also bribed Nazi and Slovak officials in a scheme (“Europe Plan”) designed to save European Jewry that ultimately failed.

5. Jules Brutzkus (1872-1951), a former minister in the Lithuania government, convinced the Consul of Lithuania in Marseille to issue citizenship papers for Jews detained in camps in France. Brutzkus utilized his status to access the camps and distributed hundreds of documents, also to non-Lithuanian nationals, before he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison.

6. Joseph Fischer Ariel (1897-1964) was chair of the Jewish National Fund during the German occupation of France. He was active in the Jewish Resistance in France, principally in transferring money from KKL in France needed for the rescue of children. During the occupation, Fischer’s life was at risk from the Vichy militias and the Gestapo who sought his arrest.

7. Yechezkel Tidor (1903-1993), born in Poland, was a prisoner in a series of concentration camps from September 1939 until his liberation in April 1945. In Buchenwald, and particularly in Auschwitz, he worked at first in forced labor, but through an association with Communist prisoners he was appointed block leader. In this capacity he repeatedly saved the lives of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners, endangering his own.

8. Meir Shulman (1911-2003) started counterfeiting documents during the first roundups in Chrzanów, Poland. He specialized in forging Aryan certificates and designing bunker hideouts. In the town of Michaokovitza, he dug a bunker under a kitchen that housed 15 Jews at first, but the number grew constantly. He forged hundreds of gold American coins that he used to buy supplies for the bunker. When the group was smuggled to Hungary, Shulman stayed behind and was caught. En route to Auschwitz, Shulman managed to jump off the train and reach Hungary, reuniting with his wife, Nacha. While in Hungary he forged documents before escaping on the Relief and Rescue Committee train to Switzerland.

9. Shmuel Skornicki (1899-1974) ran a textile company in Toulouse, France. He engaged in resistance activities and distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets, helped downed British pilots reach Spain and provided false documents. He made contact with the Spanish Consul, who appointed Skornicki as his replacement before being recalled to Spain. In the consulate compound he sheltered Jews and members of the French Resistance, falsified documents and hid weapons. During meetings with the Gestapo, Skornicki glimpsed lists of Jews designated for arrest, managed to read and memorize their names and later warn them to go into hiding.

10. Rachel (Didi) Harel (Hertz)-Roos (1923–1989) went into hiding in August 1942 with the family of her fiancée’s maid. In March 1943 she received false identity documents and, pretending to be non-Jewish, joined the Dutch underground. Harel served as a courier for Bill Wildeboer, commander of the Underground Resistance Group around Ede, maintaining contact between the commanders and the activists of the underground who engaged mainly in securing hiding places for Jews and non-Jews who refused to make a declaration of loyalty to the Germans. Despite the dangers, she rode her bike from village to village posing as a farmer’s wife of the region. She also took part in other non-violent resistance activities with the intention of thwarting German dictates. After the battle for Arnhem on Sept. 17, 1944 Harel served as a courier for the transfer of Allied soldiers across the Rhine. She was arrested Nov. 17, 1944 by the Germans after one of the members of the resistance group, who had been arrested and tortured, revealed information about her. During her capture, she managed to destroy the letters of the commander of the underground resistance group she was carrying. She was shot in the leg during an escape attempt and severely tortured, but did not betray her friends. In early April 1945 Harel escaped during a forced march of the retreating Nazis from the Westerbork transit camp—where she was interned as a political prisoner—into Germany. She received honors from the U.S., British and Dutch governments.

11. Mordechai Rossel (1918-1986) was an active member of the Zionist Movement and the Rescue Committee on behalf of “Bnei Akiva” in Hungary. As a member of the committee he transferred Jews from Hungary to Transylvania in a rescue operation named “The Teyul” and provided them shelter, food and falsified documents. Around 6,000-8,000 Jews were rescued in this operation. He was also one of the organizers of the refuge boat “Mafkora” to Eretz Yisrael that carried 350 people, among them 50 orphans from Transnistria. The boat was sunk by a German submarine in August 1944. Only five passengers survived.

12. Dr. Vittorio Emanuele Sacerdoti (1915-2000) was one of three doctors—the other two non-Jewish—that devised a fictitious disease, “Syndrome K,” to prevent the deportation of dozens of Roman Jews. They hid in the Vatican-run Fatebenefratelli Hospital during the Nazi occupation of Rome—September 1943-June 1944. Sacerdoti practiced under a fake name (Salviucci). One of the non-Jewish doctors, Dr. Giovanni Borromeo, received Yad Vashem’s “Righteous Among the Nations” recognition. Some 45 Jews survived thanks to their efforts.

13./14. Genia (Gitl) (1912-1972) and Dr. Pinchas Czerniak (1909-1993) married in 1940 and were imprisoned in the local ghetto in Antopol, Belarus. She worked in the pharmacy and helped many sick people in the ghetto by smuggling medicines and giving them to her husband, who worked as a doctor in the ghetto clinic. She was a member of the anti-Nazis underground. Pinchas also worked in a clinic outside the ghetto. Appreciative Russian farmers he treated secretly gave him food that he shared with ghetto residents. He treated people in the ghetto with drugs he stole from the clinic and Genia smuggled from the pharmacy. In one of his travels outside the ghetto he treated Philip Kirov, the leader of a partisan group. When the couple escaped to the woods, they joined the “Kirov” group treating the sick and wounded partisans.

15. Dov Fried (1924-1992) was a member of the Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary. Later he joined Hashomer Hatzair. He was forced to join the Hungarian army, which fought together with the Germans against the Allies. In the beginning of October 1944 he escaped to Budapest, obtained falsified identity papers and renewed contact with Hashomer Hatzair. He found refuge in the “Glass House,” where he falsified Swiss documents and distributed them outside the facility to Jews.

For more information please contact Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center: