The following post is an excerpt from the op-ed piece that appeared in The Times of Israel, written by Alan Schneider, Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem.
Schneider discusses Yom Hashoah ceremony, commemorating the heroic efforts of Jonas Eckstein to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.
Schneider notes that while the Holocaust will remain one of the darkest hours of human history, it is time to focus on the stories of heroism that prevented further atrocities.
To read Schneider's full op-ed, click here:
Yona (Jonas) Eckstein (1902-1971) was an active member of the Jewish community in Bratislava and a successful wrestler in the “Hakoach” Jewish sport club there.
Through his sporting activities and vivacious personality Eckstein befriended city officials and police, and when the Jews of Bratislava were being rounded up for deportation in 1941, Eckstein was charged with providing food to Jews in the transit camps and was given the privilege of remaining in his own home.
But Eckstein did not take advantage of his relative freedom and good connections to escape to a safe heaven. Instead, he utilized them to facilitate rescue activities of fellow Jews that endangered himself and his family.
His diverse activity touched thousands of people over a period of two and half years, encompassing the clandestine delivery of 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 then-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 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.
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