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(Jerusalem, April 20, 2020)–The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust will hold a Zoom meeting on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah, Tuesday, April 21) to extol the heroism of some 20 Jews who endangered themselves during the Holocaust to rescue fellow Jews. Relatives and representatives of the now-deceased rescuers will address the meeting, and the Jewish Rescuers Citation – a joint project of the World Center and the Committee – will be conferred virtually on them. The event will be carried live on B’nai B’rith’s Facebook page and will primarily be in Hebrew, with some English.

The rescuers include:

  • Moussa and Odette Rosenstock Abadi (Marcel Network), two Jewish doctors who married after the war, rescued 527 Jewish infants, children and teenagers with the help of  Bishop of Nice, France, Paul Remond (recognized as Righteous Among the Nations) in 1943-1945. The children were sheltered in Catholic institutions and Christian homes. Odette was denounced, arrested and tortured, but she did not reveal the network. She was deported to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen where she was liberated in April 1945;
  • Joseph Bau, a graphic artist who forged documents for the Jewish underground in Krakow, Poland, and later in Oscar Schindler’s factory camp in Brněnec in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia;
  • Rebecca Bau, a nurse who served as the manicurist of Amon Goeth, the ruthless Nazi who ruled over the Plaschow concentration camp. She shared secrets she overheard that helped many inmates survive while also providing them with moral and physical support;
  • Fella Meiboom-Cajtak, who served for two years as a nurse in the dentistry clinic in Birkenau and was transferred to Auschwitz as punishment by Josef Mengele, where she was appointed head of Block 8 and was responsible for 1,000 children aged 12-16, many of whom she helped evade Mengele’s deadly selections;
  • Ahron Roza, a Greek-Jewish pharmacist who worked in the SS’s pharmacy in Auschwitz. He endangered his life smuggling drugs to sick inmates, saving their lives;
  • Lena Kuechler Silberman, who lived under an Aryan identity in occupied Warsaw and rescued twins from the Warsaw ghetto, placing them in a Catholic institution;
  • Fredy Hirsch, a celebrated sportsman and educator in pre-war Germany. Through sports and physical training, he provided support and hope to Jewish children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and later in the children’s block he established in Birkenau;
  • Gisi Fleischmann, a Zionist activist and the leader of the Bratislava Working Group, one of the best known Jewish rescue groups during the Holocaust. Fleischmann was arrested on Oct. 15, 194,4 and murdered in Auschwitz three days later;
  • Noach Kleiger, who served as a runner in the Belgian anti-Nazi underground and in an underground cell of the Zionist youth movements that conveyed Jewish children to Switzerland via France;
  • Semyon Rozenfeld, the last surviving participant in the uprising in the Sobibor death camp that resulted in the escape of hundreds of inmates. 300 survived Nazi pursuit into the surrounding forests;
  • Haidi Kornfeld, who undertook various missions for the Jewish underground in Hungary, including providing documents to Jews that allowed their survival and protected them from deportation to concentration and death camps;
  • Aron Menczer, who was active in “Youth Aliya” in Vienna before the war. Deported to Theresienstadt, he was appointed to care for 1,200 children brought there from Bialystok and from there to Birkenau, where he was murdered;
  • Helen Cazes-Benathar, the first female attorney in Morocco, who established the Committee to Assist Foreign Refugees in Casablanca under the German-puppet ant-Ssemitic Vichy government and engaged in clandestine illegal activities for an extended period to rescue fellow Jews.
  • Adolf Berman, a doctor of psychology and a Jewish community leader in Warsaw before the war. He was one of the leaders of the Jewish underground in the Warsaw Ghetto, a member of the presidium of the Underground National Committee and general secretary of the Polish underground Council for Jewish Aid (known by its code-name “Żegota”). He and his wif,e Basia Temkin-Berman, who was also a Zionist activist, were smuggled out of the ghetto on Sept. 5, 1942, under assumed Polish identities and endangered themselves assisting Jews who escaped the ghetto after its destruction;
  • Aviva Igael Ingeborg Simon, born in Frankfurt, whose family fled to France when Hitler came to power. She joined the underground activities of the Jewish Scouts that rescued Jewish children in cooperation with the French underground. She served as counselor at a shelter for abandoned Jewish children whose parents had been arrested and deported and was a courier of weapons licenses, identity cards and other illegal papers made available to the underground by friendly municipalities and local governments. She also participated in dangerous missions to smuggle Jewish children from France to Switzerland;
  • Buena Sarfatty, born in Saloniki, Greece, who was arrested and imprisoned in the Pablo Mela detention camp located near the German army headquarters. Shortly after her incarceration, she was freed in a daring operation of the Greek resistance. She found refuge in Komotini in northeastern Greece where she joined first the royalist and then the communist-aligned underground ELAS-EAM. She took part in various operations across Greece on behalf of the partisans and assisted Jewish families to escape Nazi persecution to Palestine via Turkey. She also located Jewish children, the wounded and pregnant women, assisting them to escape Greece under Nazi occupation.

The Zoom meeting represents a break from the traditional annual ceremony held by the World Center and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) for the past 17 consecutive years in the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest.  It is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust.

Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, 314 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Holland and Belgium.

One of the most recent recipients of the Jewish Rescuers Citation, Frida Wattenberg, a member of the Jewish underground in Grenoble, France, during the Holocaust, contracted coronavirus and died in Paris on April 3, just three weeks shy of her 96th birthday. The citation was conferred on Sept. 23, 2019, at the Fondation de Rothschild seniors’ home where she resided. Tsilla Hershco, the author of the most authoritative book to date on the Jewish underground movement in France and a member of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust, conferred the citation.

The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe have 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 Jews survived the Holocaust, or assisted them in escaping to safe havens, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews.

The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust produced a 32-booklet on Jewish rescue in advance of Yom Hashoah (Hebrew only).  Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel – has adopted Jewish rescue as the official theme of this year’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day under the title Rescue by Jews during the Holocaust – Solidarity in a Disintegrating World. Materials produced by Yad Vashem for the occasion can be seen here (English) and here (Hebrew).

Interviews with the last surviving Jewish rescuers in Israel, David Gur (Hungary) and Eliezer Lev Zion (France), can be arranged with prior notice.

Please contact Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem for further details – +972-52-5536441

B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org.