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Ceremony dedicated to commemorating the efforts of rescuer Otto Komoly, president of the Zionist Federation in Hungary during the Holocaust

28 additional rescuers to receive “Jewish Rescuers Citation”

The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day/Yom HaShoah (April 8). The ceremony is the only one dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Some 200 Border Patrol Cadets—who will provide an honor guard—and 200 high school students will participate along 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—the 11th annual ceremony—will memorialize the rescue activities of Otto Komoly, president of the Zionist Federation in Hungary during the Holocaust, chairman of the Hungarian Jewish community’s clandestine Rescue Committee and later also director of the International Red Cross “Department A” responsible for rescuing Jewish children. Komoly oversaw the rescue of 5,000 Jewish children through the establishment of 52 shelters that were staffed by members of the Zionist Youth Movement and protected by Red Cross sponsorship. He also supported the legal—and later the clandestine—escape of Jews from Hungary to Palestine via Romania through which an estimated 15,000 Jews were saved. Komoly was the Jewish community’s principle interlocutor with Hungarian leaders and with the neutral foreign entities that operated in Budapest. On Jan. 1, 1945—barely two weeks before the liberation of Pest by the Red Army— Komoly was kidnapped from his Red Cross offices by members of the Arrow Cross regime and never heard from again. He is assumed to have been murdered, along with thousands of other Jews, on the banks of the Danube.          

At the ceremony Otto Komoly will be represented by his granddaughter Orna Barnea. Outgoing Minister of Science and Technology Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz and Hungarian Ambassador Zoltán Szentgyörgyi will attend. Also speaking: KKL-JNF Chairman Effi Stenzler and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz. 

Prior to 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 28 additional rescuers who operated in the underground Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary. Forty citations have been presented since the citation’s establishment in 2011 to rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland and Hungary.  

The event will be held at the Martyrs’ Forest—a joint KKL-JNF-B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust in six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem Mountains near Moshav Kisalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their establishment in the State of Israel in a moving base relief. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors and 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 chose 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 haven. The few rescuers who are still alive have often been reluctant to recount their stories, satisfied in the knowledge that they were able to overcome the Nazis 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.

For further details please contact Golan Yossifon 052-5625135