B’nai B’rith World Center And Keren Kayemeth Leisrael To Hold A Unique Holocaust Day Ceremony Marking The Heroism Of Jewish Rescuers
Ceremony Dedicated To Commemorating the Rescue Efforts of Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold, for the 14th consecutive year, a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah), May 5. This is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. About 200 border patrol cadets—who will provide an honor guard—and 200 high school students will participate in the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers and survivors. The ceremony will take place at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza (arrival map) at 10:00 a.m. Israel time.
This years' event will memorialize the rescue efforts of Jewish educator and Leningrad resident, Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner (1912-1991). According to survivors’ testimonies Pevzner was serving as the director of the Polish troupe in the Soviet Pioneers Camp in Druskininkai, Lithuania, when on June 22, 1941, the Nazis launched “Operation Barbarossa” and attacked the area. Pevzner succeeded in rescuing all 300 children from the camp, including about 140 Jewish children from Bialystok, Poland, and the surrounding region, and retreating with them by train to the safety of the Soviet Far East. For the 12 day journey, they were under repeated German aerial attack.
Pevzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic under the Soviet government’s patronage, caring for them through extreme weather conditions and shortages until World War II ended. The children—only four of whom found any surviving parents after the war—were repatriated to Poland in 1946, and most immigrated to Israel. The “Bricha” organization transferred the children to France, and after a training period the first group of 50 children left for Mandatory Eretz Israel on the illegal immigrant ship “Theodor Herzl.” The ship was intercepted at sea by a British war ship and several passengers, including some of the children, were wounded while resisting the British. The ship was towed to the Atlit detention camp in Mandatory Eretz Israel, where the wounded were taken ashore. The remaining passengers were transferred to a detention camp in Cyprus until they were allowed to immigrate to Israel in December 1947. About 120 of the "Bialystok Children" made aliyah over time. Pevzner was decorated by Poland and the Soviet Union for his rescue of the children. The director of the Lithuanian troupe at the camp, Stasys Sviderskis, was recognized in 1997 by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for his role in the rescue.
Pevzner will be represented at the ceremony by his son Dr. Mark Pevzner and grandson Boris Pevzner, both are residents of Udmurtia. Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein will be guest of honor. B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz and KKL/JNF World Chairman Danny Atar will also address the event.
During the ceremony a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be posthumously conferred on Pevzner by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ), and the B’nai B’rith World Center and on six other Jewish rescuers from Greece, Poland and Hungary. Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, honors have been awarded to some 100 rescuers who operated in France, Germany, Holland and Hungary.
"Through the ceremony and citation, the organizers seek to right the historical record by giving due recognition to Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner for rescuing these vulnerable children, some as young as seven, and all but four of whom where orphaned by the war's end. Pevzner was exceptionally devoted to the safety, education and well-being of the children throughout World War II, and thanks to him they survived. He acted with bravery and heroism to save the children from an active battlefield and led them to a safe haven. We salute his dedication to the children, supporting them through emotional and physical hardships' to become upstanding adolescents and adults," B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said.
The event will be held at the Martyr's Forest—a joint Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) and B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust with six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” created by renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to 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 have yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance. Many who could have tried to flee preferred 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 Jews survived the Holocaust there, or assisted them in escaping to a safe place, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews. The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
09:00-09:30 Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to soldiers in the Forest
09:45 Coalesce in “Scroll of Fire” Plaza
10:00 Siren peal and ceremony commencement
11:00 Ceremony conclusion
11:00-11:30 Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to students in the Forest
For further details, please contact: B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider at 052-5536441 or email@example.com