The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) will confer their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation upon nine rescuers who risked their lives in France saving Jews from deportation and extermination during the Holocaust.
The citations will be conferred at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris on Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. (local time) under the auspices of B’nai B’rith France. Speakers will include B’nai B’rith France President Serge Dahan, Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia and Tsilla Hershco, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University and an expert on the Jewish resistance in France who will represent JRJ.
“Our initiative to recognize the heroism of Jewish rescuers is the payment of a debt of over 70 years owed to those who risked their lives in brave attempts to rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. The rescuers being recognized in Paris are only a handful of the many Jews who exposed themselves to even greater dangers to save others. It is our solemn undertaking to bring to light their legacy while seeking the help of the public at large in uncovering additional inspiriting stories,” B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said.
The conferees are Marcel Marceau, Leon Eligoulachvili and Joseph Eligoulachvili, Georges Loinger and Fanny Loinger, Nelly Willer and Rachel Grunstein, Liliane Lieber-Klein and Theo Klein.
Marcel Marceau’s father, Charles Mangel, was arrested in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz, where he died. Marcel and his older brother, Alain, joined the French Resistance and assumed false identities, taking on the surname “Marceau.” Marcel is credited with saving the lives of Jewish orphans by leading them across the Alps into Switzerland or south into Spain, to avoid arrest by the Germans. He also forged identity cards with his brother, allowing Jews and non-Jews alike to avoid deportation to Germany as slave labor. Marcel’s citation will be presented posthumously.
Leon Eligoulachvili and his uncle Joseph Eligoulachvili—who was a member of the independent Georgian government until he escaped to France due to the Soviet occupation in 1921—saved Georgian and other Jews who lived in France during World War II with the help of the Georgian government in exile. At the Eligoulachvilis’ suggestion, the Georgian leaders approached the Germans to exclude Georgian Jews from the anti-Jewish laws. The Georgians received permission to issue identity cards that were distributed to 243 families, only 80 of whom were actually Georgian. The others became “Georgian” by changing family names and forging birth certificates and other documents. Leon is now 105 years old, and in addition to accepting his own citation, he will also accept his uncle’s citation on his behalf.
After escaping a POW camp in Germany in 1940, Georges Loinger joined his wife, Flora Loinger, who was in charge of a Jewish refugee children’s home. When concern arose that the children might be arrested, the home was shut down and Flora and Georges hid the children. Georges was then appointed by the OSE (Children’s Aid Society) to be its traveling children’s home inspector, including those run by the Eclaireurs Israelites de France (EIF), the Jewish scouts movement. At the end of 1942, when the heads of OSE were informed that the transports from Drancy ended up in death camps, the children’s homes were shut down, and Georges was put in charge of the escape operation to Switzerland. He assisted hundreds of Jewish children escape from France to Switzerland via Annemasse, France. Between May 1943 and June 1944, more than 1,500 children and adolescents were smuggled by the OSE into Switzerland. His sister, Fanny Loinger, was responsible for the social service of the OSE, assisting Jewish refugees in Marseille awaiting visas to the United States. In 1943, she was appointed head of the southeast region of the clandestine rescue, known as the Garel Network, and organized the operation that allowed some 400 children in the departments of Ardeche, Isère Drôme, Savoie and the Upper and Lower Alps to survive until liberation. Georges Loinger is now 106 years old, and not only will he accept his award in Paris, but he will also accept Fanny Loinger’s citation on her behalf. She passed away several years ago.
Nelly Willer joined the clandestine resistance in Nice, France. She helped issue false identity cards and smuggled guns to the Jewish resistance that were used to assassinate Russian collaborators who had informed on thousands of Jews who were subsequently sent to extermination camps. Eliminating them and their commander saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Nice. After the war Willer joined the Haganah (a clandestine military defense organization) and transported Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors to French ports to make Aliyah. As a journalist following the war, Willer infiltrated the British internment camps in Cyprus and reported on conditions there. For many years she was the president of the resistance veteran’s organization in France. Her sister Rachel Grunstein also participated in eliminating the Russian collaborators in Nice. After the war she too joined the Haganah. Nelly Willer is now 100 years old. She will accept her award in Paris as well as Rachel Grunstein’s citation on her behalf.
Liliane Lieber Klein, now 93 years old, participated in the creation of the armed wing of the EIF clandestine organization, La Sixième (the Sixth). The mission of La Sixième was to hide adolescent Jews, supply them with forged identification documents and ration cards, and preserve their Jewish identity while in hiding. During the winter of 1943 to 1944 she ran convoys of children under 16 to the Swiss border at Annemasse, France and turned them over to Georges Loinger for safe passage. Klein will accept her citation in Paris.
A lawyer by profession, Theo Klein, now 97 years old, was one of the leaders of the Jewish resistance in France from 1942 to 1944 and was involved in the rescue of hundreds of people, particularly adolescents, in the southern zone. During the 1980s he served as president of the representative organization of French Jews CRIF. Klein will attend the citation ceremony in Paris.
The Jewish Rescuers citation was established in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center and JRJ to rectify the historical record regarding Jewish rescue. To date 162 heroes have been honored for their rescue activities in Lithuania, Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland and Holland. The World Center and the Committee have submitted to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) an amendment to the Yad Vashem (Israel’s state Holocaust authority) Law under which the institution’s scope would be broadened to include Jewish rescuers.
For more information, please contact: Alan Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center, Tel: 02-6251743, 052-5536441 firstname.lastname@example.org