Nearly 15 years ago, the World Center proposed a resolution to the 2003 B’nai B’rith International Board of Governors meeting that convened in Baltimore calling on the organization to honor Jewish Holocaust rescuers. The resolution that past read “BE IT RESOLVED THAT B’nai B’rith International authorizes the B’nai B’rith World Center to engage in identifying and honoring Jews who performed extraordinary actions to save other Jews during the Holocaust, and asks that they further define the scope of any involvement and activity by B’nai B’rith International.”
Over the years since that resolution, the search for Jewish Holocaust-era rescuers has become a major area of activity for the World Center and a personal passion.
In order to properly honor those heroes, the World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust—of which the World Center is a founding member—launched their joint “Jewish Rescuers Citation,” through which some 170 Jewish heroes have been recognized for their courageous actions rescuing Jews across Europe during the Holocaust.
One of the modus operandi of the citation is that it must be presented to the rescuer him or herself or, in the case that the rescuer is no longer alive, to a relative.
Sometimes, this condition is difficult to meet, particularly in the case of some of the more obscure rescue efforts.
One such effort is the case of Dr. Asaf Atchildi, a medical doctor born into the Jadir community of Samarkand—a religious community of Jewish origin, originally forced into accepting the Muslim faith for the sake of appearance. Atchildi found himself in Paris during the German occupation, attending to the Juguts—Jews of Bukharian origin in France. With the assistance of Georgian expatriate politicians living in France, an Iranian diplomat and other players, Dr. Atchildi succeeded in building a web of contacts and relationships among the German and French bureaucracy that ensured the survival of the Jugut community and other non-Jugut Jews who were surreptitiously added to the list of Juguts. Atchildi, who, at his wife’s urging never registered as being Jewish, was in constant danger of being found out and deported.
Our committee had no doubt that the now deceased doctor deserved the Jewish Rescuers Citation but we were unable to find a relative to receive it. We knew from testimony he gave to Yad Vashem that while in Paris he had two daughters. We could not find either in Israel or in Paris. I then resorted to the radio program “Search Bureau for Missing Relatives,” anchored by Izzy Mann, a B’nai B’rith World Center Journalism Award winner, who immediately promised to broadcast Atchildi’s fascinating story to garner information from the public at large and also to set loose his bevy of volunteer researchers to find Atchildi or his close kin. Izzy was able to find some significant leads to distant relatives in Israel and within three weeks these led to a breakthrough: we found Dr. Atchildi’s one surviving daughter, Dora Aftergood (90), at the Jewish age home in Vancouver and her son David in Calgary. B’nai B’rith Canada has agreed to stage a major event to present the citation posthumously to Dr. Atchild—closing the circle opened 70 years earlier when he ensured the survival of over 300 Bukharian and other Jews in occupied France.
The World Center remains committed to this important project that helps discredit the mistaken notion that Jews did nothing to rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust and that the notion of Jewish solidarity was nowhere to be found during those terrible times.
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