Tablet Magazine covered the Jewish Rescuers Citation, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem's joint project with the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JNJ), in a piece about recognizing the number of Jews hailed for their heroism during the Shoah.
Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), the Jewish children’s welfare organization, was founded in Russia in 1912 by a group of young doctors committed to offering sanitary protection and health benefits to poor Jews. The organization moved in 1917 to Berlin where Albert Einstein was its honorary president. In 1933, it moved to Paris, and in 1940, once again to escape the Nazis, it moved to Montpellier in the non-occupied south of France.
With its 280 official employees, OSE became the principal Jewish organization concerned with the welfare of foreign Jews in French internment camps. In November 1941, there were more than 28,000 internees in these camps, roughly 5,000 of whom were children under the age of 18. The camps were entirely run and staffed by the French. With help from non-Jewish organizations, such as the Quakers and the Red Cross, OSE social workers fed, clothed, and raised the morale of these detainees, 3,000 of whom would die of malnutrition and disease over the course of the war.
As of August 1942, when children were being deported even from the non-occupied zone, the primary goal of OSE became to illegally evacuate the children from the camps and, with the help of their Christian allies, to place them in non-Jewish homes, farms, and institutions, or smuggle them out of the country.
To accomplish this work, a 33-year-old engineer named Georges Garel (né Grigori Garfinkel) left his role in the Resistance to form the Garel Network, the first entirely clandestine network for rescuing Jewish children in the still-unoccupied zone. With headquarters in Lyon, over the next 12 months, thanks to about three dozen workers—most of whom were Jewish women employed by the OSE—the Garel Network would hide over 1,600 Jewish children in various parts of France.
What happened in France took place in every occupied country. Thousands of Jews, many of them very young, labored individually and in Jewish and non-Jewish organizations to save their endangered brethren. Many could have fled but chose to remain in order to rescue others. With great heroism, they employed subterfuge, forgery of documents, smuggling, concealment, and escape into foreign countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and Turkey. Together with their non-Jewish companions, these courageous persons rescued between 150,000 and 300,000 persons who might otherwise have perished.
Yet only the non-Jews who did these things have been formally acknowledged as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Since 1963, 27,362 non-Jewish rescuers from 51 different countries have been recognized. They remain beacons of hope 75 years later. Their Jewish counterparts, who often worked alongside them in rescue efforts, deserve the same public recognition. Doing so would give significant emphasis to rescue as a legitimate and successful form of resistance that would serve to discredit further the continuing myth that Jews went to the slaughter like sheep. It would also underscore the basic moral teaching that “righteousness” should be conferred on people for having donesomething, not for being or not being a member of a specific religion.
One OSE fieldworker named Madeleine Dreyfus brought Jewish children to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Born Madeleine Kahn in 1909, the future Madeleine Dreyfus received her baccalaureate degree in Paris in 1927. She married Raymond Dreyfus in March 1933 on the day Hitler came to power. Her sons, Michel and Jacques, were born in 1934 and 1937, respectively, during the period when she began studying psychology intensely with Sophie Lazarfeld, a student and disciple of Alfred Adler. In October 1941, when her husband lost his job in Paris because of the recently invoked anti-Semitic laws, the family passed into the unoccupied zone and settled in Lyon.
Madeleine began working for OSE as a psychologist in late 1941, giving educational and psychological consultations to troubled Parisian students whose families had taken refuge in Lyon. As of August 1942, under the constant menace of the enthusiastically collaborationist Vichy police force, and, especially after November 1942, when the Germans officially occupied all of France, Madeleine assumed responsibility for the Lyon/Le Chambon-sur-Lignon area link in the Garel Network and sought places of refuge in this mostly Protestant countryside for Jewish children.
Several times a month, accompanied by a small group of children (aged anywhere from 18 months to 16 years), Madeleine would take the train from Lyon to Saint-Etienne, where she would transfer to the local steam engine to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Sometimes these children had been given to her by their parents. Just as often, they had managed to escape or hide at the time of their parents’ arrest and were then rescued by the network.
These trips to the countryside were extremely dangerous ventures in which Madeleine continuously risked her life. Although in almost all cases the children had false Aryan identity papers, Madeleine, who carried the most readily identifiable Jewish last name in France, did not.
Madeline Dreyfus had to take control of these mostly foreign children to get them through police inspections in the train stations and on the trains. She had to keep them from speaking Polish, German, or Yiddish, and make sure that they called their friends by their French names. From September or October 1942 to November 1943, Madeleine made these trips, finding shelter for well over one hundred Jewish children. She would return often to visit the children she had placed, to bring them clothing, medicine, food tickets, and whenever possible, letters from their parents—who, for safety reasons, never knew where their children were hidden.
As of November 1942, Madeleine was already pregnant with her third child, Annette. Being pregnant may have slowed her down, but it didn’t stop her. Annette was born in Lyon on Aug. 29, 1943. “Very shortly thereafter,” writes Raymond, “my wife resumed her trips back and forth between Lyon and Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.”
Only a few weeks later, after his sister-in-law and two of her children were arrested and deported, Raymond begged Madeleine to stop her illegal work, “now that she was responsible for three small children, two months, six, and nine years of age, all without false papers.” Madeleine asked Raymond to wait a bit longer, since there was no one to replace her.
On Nov. 23, Madeleine received a phone call from the father of a child she had hidden at the School for Deaf-Mutes at Villeurbanne, who was distraught because he had heard there was going to be a Gestapo raid at the institute. Madeleine called there and the woman on the other end of the line encouraged her to come to the school right away. It was impossible for Madeleine to know that her respondent was being held at gunpoint and was being instructed to answer in that manner by her Gestapo captors.
Despite walking into a trap, Madeline managed to immediately warn both her family and the OSE. She was sent to Fort Monluc in Lyon where she spent over two months in the Jewish women’s dormitory, from whose window she witnessed the execution of many resisters, Jews and Christians alike. At the end of January 1944, she was transferred to Drancy. In May, she was deported to Bergen-Belsen in northwest Germany, where about 40,000 inmates would die of starvation and disease.
Even in Bergen-Belsen where she would spend 11 months, Madeleine was concerned with the well-being of others. She constantly tried to raise the morale of her companions and organized daily delousing sessions to help stem the typhus in the camp. She and her companions received between 600 and 700 calories a day. Survival was contingent, she reported later, upon selective camaraderie. Small groups of three or four women would stay together and help one another maintain morale and reestablish their humanity: sharing food, assuming social roles, making an effort to speak about art and literature, and reassuring one another that they were still human beings.
After 18 months of incarceration in prison and Nazi concentration camps, Madeleine was liberated and repatriated on May 18, 1945. She continued her practice as an Adlerian psychologist and was particularly gifted with children, teaching, and family situations, until her death in 1987.
Madeleine Dreyfus was only one of dozens of Jewish OSE workers who risked their lives to save other Jews in France. In Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, André Chouraqui, the future assistant mayor of Jerusalem, immediately replaced Madeleine at OSE in Lyon and in the Garel Network. Jews not affiliated with OSE, such as Oskar Rosowsky, risked their lives by fabricating false papers for Jews hiding in the area.
Nor were they alone during the occupation years. Jews were involved in the rescue of other Jews all over France. Moussa Abadi and his partner, Odette Rosenstock, working with the bishop of Nice, Paul Rémond (who would later deservedly be named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem), managed to save 527 Jewish children; Odette, like Madeleine, survived Bergen-Belsen. On the Swiss border, three Jewish groups—OSE, EIF (Eclaireurs israélites de France, or French Jewish Scouts), and MJS (Mouvement de la jeunesse sioniste, or Youth Zionist Movement)—worked together to smuggle hundreds of Jewish children into Switzerland.
Let us remember in particular two young Jewish heroines who gave their lives in these endeavors: Mila Racine, who was caught smuggling Jewish children into Switzerland in October 1943, was deported to Mauthausen, and died during an Allied bombing mission at the age of 23. She was replaced by Marianne Cohn, who was arrested for smuggling Jewish children across the border in May 1944, then beaten, tortured, and murdered by the Gestapo in July 1944. She was 21 years old when she died.
During the occupation of France, OSE saved the lives of roughly 6,000 Jewish children in France; yet 32 OSE staff members lost their lives and 90 OSE children did not survive. Among the 76,000 Jews deported from France were 11,600 children whom the Nazis never asked for.
Prudence dictated that Christians and Jews lie low, out of risk’s path. Nor was there any shortage of active collaborators with the Nazi edicts from the highest levels of French government and society to the lowest. All those who chose to rise up against this evil deserve recognition. To celebrate Jews and non-Jews, who risked their lives together to rescue persecuted people, would offer a superb example of human solidarity in a world of rapidly increasing anti-Semitism and group hatreds.
Finally, to insist on the differences between Christian and Jewish rescuers violates the spirit of the overwhelming majority of Jews and Christians alike who did not think in terms of religious affiliations or differences when they put their own lives at risk to save others. In Lisa Gossel’s award-winning documentary The Children of Chabannes, Félix Chevrier, the gentile leader of a rescue mission that sheltered 400 Jewish children, is described as having been anguished throughout the entire rescue period “because he didn’t want to save the children because they were Jewish. He wanted to save them because they were children.” The great Jewish humanitarian, pediatrician, teacher, and radio personality Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in Warsaw and later inside the Warsaw Ghetto did his work in a similar spirit. When asked what he would do after the war were he to survive, he responded: “Take care of German orphans.” We defile the memory of these rescuers when we confine them to categories that their magnanimous souls obviously transcended.
In the absence of a program at Yad Vashem that recognizes “Jewish Holocaust Rescuers,” a group of Holocaust survivors from Holland, France, Germany, and other countries, who were themselves saved by the efforts of Jews, came together in 2000 with a number of Jewish rescuers and representatives of international Jewish organizations and founded the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JRJ). Focusing on the ideas of “self-rescue” and “rescue as resistance,” this group has been engaged in numerous initiatives aimed at bringing this neglected chapter of Holocaust history to public attention. The goals of the JRJ are to collect testimonies, set up a database for research, and incorporate their findings into the curriculum of Holocaust studies in Israel and throughout the world.
Haim Roet, the founder and chair of the JRJ, was 11 years old in 1943 when he was rescued and hidden in the village of Nieuwlande, one of only two “places,” along with Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, to be declared “righteous” by Yad Vashem. Three rescuers led this operation, which saved 200 children: Johannes Post, Arnold Douwes, and Max “Nico” Leons. Jan Post was caught by the Germans and executed; Arnold Douwes lived into old age. Max Leons died in 2019 at the age of 97. Post and Douwes were both named “Righteous Among the Nations.” In 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation was created. It is a joint project of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem.
So many people participated in the rescue mission in Nieuwlande that a monument was constructed at Yad Vashem to honor the entire village. It contains more than 100 names of rescuers chiseled in stone. Max “Nico” Leon’s name is not on the stone for the same reason he was never cited by Yad Vashem as a rescuer of Jews: He was Jewish.
In Amsterdam on Nov. 24, 2011, at his surprise 90th birthday party, Roet presented Leon with the Jewish Rescuers Citation, a well-deserved honor intended to redress what increasingly appears, with the benefit of hindsight, to be a historical and moral injustice that only perpetuates the kinds of divisions between human beings that rescuers of all faiths heroically refused to recognize.
The Jewish Post & News covered the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust's virtual Yom Hashoah event in April, choosing to highlight Joseph and Rebecca Bau.
When Hadasa Bau and Clila Bau Cohen received notice earlier this year that their parents, Josef and Rebecca Bau, were to going to be honoured, along with some other Holocaust survivors, at a ceremony in Jerusalem in April, they burst out in tears.
It was an emotional moment.
“We were very moved,” said the two sisters, who have both lived in Winnipeg at different times over the years, in an email in early July to this reporter from their home in Tel Aviv. “Our parents deserve it so much.”
The B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust held a Zoom meeting on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah, Tuesday, April 21, 2020) to extol the heroism of some 20 Jews who endangered themselves during the Holocaust to rescue fellow Jews, said information on the B’nai B’rith International website. Relatives and representatives of the now-deceased rescuers addressed the meeting, and the – a joint project of the World Center and the Committee – was conferred virtually on them. The event was carried live on B’nai Brith’s Facebook page and was primarily be in Hebrew, with some English.
There were a total of 16 rescuers honoured on that day.
A brief biography of each person is included on the website:
Joseph Bau (June 13, 1920-May 24, 2002), 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 (Tennenbaum) Bau (1918-1997) was a nurse who served as the manicurist of Amon Goeth, the ruthless Nazi who ruled over the Plaszow concentration camp. She shared secrets she overheard that helped many inmates survive, while also providing them with moral and physical support.
“The Zoom meeting represented 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 Brith Martyrs Forest,” said the BBI website.
“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 the 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 Foundation 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.”
In their email, Hadasa Bau and Clila Bau Cohen said their parents only thought about how to help others, and in the Holocaust they risked their lives in order to save other people. The sisters participated in the Zoom meeting on April 21 by providing more details about their parents.
“They never thought about themselves,” the sisters said.
“Our father, Joseph Bau, managed to finish one year of art school in Krakow before the war broke out. At the end of that year, he was taught Gothic letters. When he and his family were sent to the Ghetto, the Germans looked for someone who knew those letters, so that saved his life. He worked for the German police, the Jewish police and the Jewish underground. He forged documents for the underground, thus saving hundreds of Jews that managed to escape. He was also a spy that conveyed information from the German police to the underground.
“When the underground people told him, ‘Forge a document for yourself and escape...’, he answered, ‘...but if I escape who will save the rest?’
“So, he risked his life and stayed till the end of the war. Our father was very modest and never told us how he saved many lives, even though our parents spoke about the Holocaust daily. During the Holocaust, he led a secret life and this continued in Israel.
“He told his memoirs of the Holocaust in a book he wrote named ‘Shnot Tarzach – Dear God, Have You Ever Gone Hungry?’ that was translated into many languages.”
In 1950 Josef and Rebecca and their three year old daughter, Hadasa, immigrated to Israel.
“After his death, we discovered that he worked for the Mossad and forged documents for spies such as Eli Cohen, also for the team that captured Eichmann and Eichmann himself,” said the sisters.
“We turned the studio that he used as a cover for his activities into the Joseph Bau House Museum. He was a pioneer of animation and one of the first graphic artists. He designed titles for many Israeli movies.”
Rebecca Bau was in the Krakow ghetto, also Plaszow, Auschwitz and Lichtewerden concentration camps.
“She was a fearless woman. All her life she encouraged people and always laughed,” the sisters wrote.
“Rebecca was a nurse and cosmetician who worked in the ghetto hospital until all the patients were murdered. While in the ghetto, she saved many by helping them avoid the transports – among whom were 11 members of the Gietzhalz family.
“She was then transferred from the ghetto to the Plaszow concentration camp and there she saved many by giving them pedicures, because the Germans murdered those who limped.”
“In the concentration camp, she met her husband Joseph. He snuck into her barracks in the woman’s camp dressed as a woman and they secretly got married.”
Their wedding is depicted in the movie “Schindler’s List” directed by Steven Spielberg.
The sisters also noted that their mother replaced her name, which was on Schindler’s list, with that of her husband, “our father,” and she herself was sent to Auschwitz.
“The reason she was on the list was because she had saved the life of Pemper’s mother and he was one of the people making the list,” the sisters wrote in their email.
“In Auschwitz, she saved some girls - even during Mengele’s selection process. All the time we hear more and more things from people who knew our parents, who come to the museum and tell us. This is unbelievable. We are surprised every time anew. They were very different and special people.”
The 2016 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportaģe ceremony was held on July 7, 2016, and was covered by The Times of Israel and Haaretz.
Winners of the award, which recognizes excellence in Diaspora reportage in Israel print, broadcast and digital media, were Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor and Allison Kaplan Sommer, staff writer at Haaretz. Both journalists submitted an impressive array of articles on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations published during 2015.
>> Click here for a full recap, including video and photos
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer delivered the keynote address, which was also covered by The Times of Israel.
Scroll down to read clips of the coverage and links to the full articles...
On Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
On the ceremony
The latter was awarded to the totally charming Idan Raichel, who, though he had to rush off to a performance, nonetheless decided not to cheat the audience at the awards ceremony at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem and performed briefly before exiting. In accepting the citation, he spoke with a degree of modesty tinged with pride, saying that in several countries he and his group are regarded as the sound track of Israel, just as Édith Piaf is regarded as the sound track of France, and Miriam Makeba the sound track of Africa.
In a letter read to the lobby’s inaugural gathering, President Reuven Rivlin stated that while in “Spain precious communities were forced leave their faith, their life and the values they grew up and raised their families” five hundred years ago, “Spanish Jews are still with us, and we must not forget them.”
According to lobby founders MK Robert Ilatov and Ashley Perry, increasing numbers of the descendants of Jews around the world have become interested in exploring their heritage and reconnecting with the Jewish people.
“For many of us in this room who are the descendants of those persecuted and forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal, we know that it would have been impossible for our ancestors to have even dreamed of this moment,” said Perry, a former advisor to erstwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the founder of the Reconnectar NGO.
According to Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera, more than the requests of more than 4,300 Sephardic Jews for citizenship have been approved since the recent passage of a bill providing the descendants of the expellees with the opportunity to reconnect with Spain.
B’nai B’rith’s Alan Schneider told the Post that he believes that the new initiative sends a message to interested parties that Israel and the Jewish people reciprocate their desires and that “its going to be easier for them now to investigate their Jewish roots, to find out about Jewish tradition, learn about their traditions and how they relate to Judaism and eventually to decide if they want to take the greater leap of rejoining in a formal way with the Jewish people.”
“I think it also sends a message to the Jews in Israel and Jews around the world that there potentially is a much deeper margin of potential supporters, of family actually, there who feel close toward the Jewish people and the state of Israel and eventually can be called upon to be our supporters even if they choose to stay in their current status,” he said.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
B'nai B'rith International World Center is excited to announce a first-of-its-kind live, virtual tour of Israel. Friends and members of B'nai B'rith are invited to watch the three-hour tour of the Old City of Jerusalem on March 11, at 10 a.m. (EDT), or catch it archived after the fact.
The announcement was picked up by the New York Jewish Week, which conducted an interview with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center.
Read highlights from the article below, and view a mention in a JBS (formerly Shalom TV) broadcast (4:40 mark):
“But we know that many people are not able to visit or have not yet visited, and we thought this would be a good way to expose them to the different sights and sounds of the city. It will be an unedited, live look at Jerusalem using high speed video streaming technology so that it can be done in an affordable way.”
He said the current plan is to use one cameraman/producer, Shmuel Benhamou. And viewers will be instructed in how to text questions about the sites being visited.
“The plan is to go to one site for 45-minutes, then take a 10 or 15-minute break while we travel to another site,” Schneider said. “We’ll take another break before we get to the third site, and so on. And as we go along, we may stop tourists to ask them about their experiences. We might go to the shook [market place] and stop at a shop and bargain for a chatzka [small item]. We also may stop for lunch in the Jewish quarter. It will not be a formal show. It is designed to give people a sense that you are here on a tour.”
The European Union's new Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will make Israel her first destination in office.
This comes one week after B’nai B’rith International hosted the EU’s Israel Relations Chair Fulvio Martusciello at the World Center in Jerusalem.
According to an article in the Times of Israel, this is a return trip for Mogherini, who visited the country as Italy's foreign minister during the height of Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Read more about her visit and views in the article's highlights, below:
On November 1, Federica Mogherini will succeed Catherine Ashton as the union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Less than a week later, she is scheduled to arrive in Israel for her first official visit, sources in Jerusalem confirmed Tuesday.
Mogherini — currently Italy’s foreign minister — will arrive in the region on November 7 and stay for two days. She is expected to also visit senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.
“It’s very important that Ms. Mogherini comes to Israel on November 7. It’s her first official visit,” said Fulvio Martusciello, a member of the European Parliament from Italy and the new president of its delegation for relations with Israel.
Having known her for a while, he believes she understands Israel’s many predicaments, he added, but refused to elaborate.
“I hope we will be able to work together,” Martusciello, who is currently visiting Israel at the invitation of B’nai Brith International, told The Times of Israel Tuesday during an interview in the Knesset.
Mogherini is a member of Italy’s center-left government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is known to be generally friendly toward Israel and tough on Iran’s nuclear program.
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