B’nai B’rith World Center And Keren Kayemeth Leisrael To Hold A Unique Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony Marking The Heroism Of Jewish Rescuers
Ceremony Dedicated To Rescue Efforts of the Jewish Resistance in France
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold for the 16th consecutive year, a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah, Thursday, April 12). This is the only event dedicated annually to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. The Border Patrol training base will provide an honor guard, and Jerusalem-area schools and pre-army preparatory academies will attend 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 at 10:00 a.m. Israel time.
Participants in the ceremony will be: Fanny Ben-Ami, heroine of the book "The Little Commander"(1986) and the movie "Fanny's Story" (2017); Ambassador Helen Le Gal, ambassador of France to Israel; Tsilla Hershco, author of "Those Who Walk in Darkness Will See Light: The Jewish French Resistance During the Holocaust and the Creation of Israel 1940-1949" and Haim V. Katz, chairman of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem. A representative from KKL-JNF will also speak at the ceremony.
This year, the ceremony will be dedicated to the rescue efforts of the Jewish Resistance in France that operated from the occupation of France in June 1940 until the defeat of German forces there in September 1944. Each of the networks was established as an independent entity, but collaborated in various activities and often shared members. These networks saved the lives of thousands of adults and children, employing various methods such as issuing false documentations, smuggling Jews to Switzerland and Spain and formulating guerrilla groups in the cities and partisans groups in the south of France. These networks united under one umbrella organization — Organisation Juive de Combat-OJC.
Hundreds of members of the organization participated in battles to free France after the Normandy invasion and were decorated after the war by the French authorities as members of an organization who fought the Nazis. About 76,000 Jews — a quarter of French Jewry at the time — were murdered during the Holocaust, their names are memorialized on the "Wall of Deceased" at the Mémorial de la Shoah, which is located in Paris. This Jewish resistance networks had a significant part in the rescue of the remaining three-quarters but paid a high price — about 200 members were killed during those activities. The Organisation Juive de Combat-OJC included the following Jewish resistance movements: Armée Juive (A.J.), Jewish Scouts, the Zionist youth movement, OSE-Garel, the Rabbis of the Camps, Amelot Street Committee, Andre group, Moussa Abadi group and the Dutch group.
After the war many of the members of the Jewish resistance in France contributed to the creation of the State of Israel. They joined the Haganah, helped develop a foundation for Israeli diplomatic activities in France, facilitated the illegal immigration to Israel, purchased weapons for what would become the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), engaged in clandestine radio transmission between Europe and pre-state Israel, created connections with the French government and arranged for military recruitment and training for the IDF in France. Many members made aliyah and participated in the War of Independence.
During the ceremony, a Jewish Rescuers Citation will be conferred on Fanny Ben-Ami by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and posthumously on some 20 other rescuers who were active in France, Holland, Italy, Belarus and Poland. Since the establishment of the Jewish Rescuers Citation in 2011, nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy and Holland.
The Martyr’s Forest is the largest joint B’nai B’rith and KKL-JNF 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 and students.
The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe is a vital, yet under-recognized story. Many who had the opportunity to flee chose 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, or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven, 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 these narratives as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.
9:00-9:30 a.m. Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to soldiers in the Forest
9:45 a.m. Coalesce in “Scroll of Fire” Plaza
10:00 a.m. Siren peal and ceremony commencement
11:00 a.m. Ceremony conclusion
11:00-11:30 a.m. Personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors to students in the Forest
For interviews with Tsilla Hershco, author of "Those Who Walk in Darkness Will See Light: The Jewish French Resistance During the Holocaust and the Creation of Israel 1940-1949" please contact Herscho directly at 052-6222394
For all other interviews please contact B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider at 052-5536441 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) will induct more than 30 Jewish rescuers into the ranks of their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation.
The current list includes members of the French Jewish Resistance: Henri Pohoryles, Leo Cohn, Ernest Lambert, Abraham Polonsky, David Knout, March Levi, Robert Gamzon, Emmanuel Racine, Regine Ariane Knout, Fanny Ben-Ami, Mila Racine, Anne-Marie Lambert-Finkler, Betty Knout Lazaros and Marianne Cohn.
Additional rescuers include: Eduard Laufer from Slovakia; Chava Rose-Bornstein, a nurse in the Dutch underground; Sig Menko, Gerard Sanders and Isidoor van Dam, heads of the Jewish Community in Enschede, Holland; Fabius Ornstein, head of the Judenrat in Kopaygorod, Ukraine; Oswald Rufeisen and Dov Reznick members of the Mir Ghetto underground; Mala Zimetbaum, an inmate at Auschwitz; Miriam and Menachem Pinkhof, heads of Chalutz group in Holland; Karl Demerer, camp elder at Blechhammer concentration camp; Ronia Rozental from the Kovno Ghetto; Polia and Moshe Musel from the Kovno Ghetto and Ricardo Cavaligon who assisted Jewish refugees in northern Italy.
The citation is conferred in honor of the devotion, courage and heroism exhibited by these individuals under inhumane conditions in order to save their brethren. All the citations except to Polia Musel and Fanny Ben-Ami will be presented posthumously to relatives of the rescuers.
The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and JRJ to rectify the historical record regarding Jewish rescue. 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 chose 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, or assisted them in escaping to a safe place, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews. To date more than 200 heroes have been honored with the citation for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Italy and Holland.
Some of the citations will be presented at a joint B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem/ Keren Kayemet Le' Israel — JNF Holocaust and Martyr's Day ceremony commemorating Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust, to be held April 12 at the B'nai B'rith Martyr's Forest, "Scroll of Fire" plaza. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. with the siren peal. Fanny Ben-Ami’s story is memorialized in the book “The Little Commander” by Galila Ron-Feder (Hebrew, 1986) and in the film “Fanny’s Journey” (2016).” Ben-Ami will address the ceremony on behalf of the Jewish rescuers.
For more information contact Alan Schneider, director, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem, 972-2-6251743, 972-52-5536441 or email@example.com.
B'nai B'rith Calls On Polish Government To Stop Draft Legislation On Discussion Of Complicity In Holocaust
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
In discussing the history of Poland during World War II, B’nai B’rith International has always strongly discouraged the use of inaccurate and deeply problematic phrases like “Polish death camps” to describe concentration camps built and operated by the Nazis on Polish soil. We understand that Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany and that the Polish people suffered terrible losses.
However, the draft law passed by the Polish Senate today by a 57-23 vote represents a wrong approach. We believe it will have a chilling effect on Poland’s examination of the country’s wartime role. The law would criminalize not only the phrase “Polish death camp,” but any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
It is vital that every country confront the most painful and vexing episodes in its past in an open and honest way. For Poland, this means acknowledging a history of anti-Semitism that preceded the Holocaust and has persisted to this day. It also means recognizing that some Poles provided assistance to the Germans and some participated in massacres not orchestrated by the Nazis.
We urge the Polish government to reverse this ill-conceived law in favor of policies that would promote free speech and inquiry about this dark chapter of the country’s past. Openness and education are the keys to establishing a historical record based on truth rather than painful inaccuracies.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed every year on or near Jan. 27, the date in 1945 the allies liberated the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition to U.S. observances, B’nai B’rith International commemorated this significant day across Latin America.
In Argentina, Human Rights Office Director Claudio Avruj, who is also a former B’nai B’rith executive vice president of District 23, was the governmental officer attending the main commemoration in the Chaco Province. Also attending was Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie and the leaders of Jewish organizations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Santiago, Chile held an event that was attended by more than 300 people and was organized jointly by B´nai B´rith and the Jewish community of Chile. Samuel del Campo, Righteous Among Nations, was honored through his nephew Christian Beals.
Uruguay’s Congress held a special session commemorating the day, and Chief of Staff Juan Roballo gave a speech that was broadcast across the country on the radio and several television channels. In his speech Roballo stated, “Our remembrance of Holocaust victims is a commitment to fight for a real ‘never more’ and a commitment to fight against all forms of discrimination.”
In Brazil, The U.N. office opened an exhibit on the Shoah in Rio de Janeiro for one week.
In Ecuador, the University of the Americas hosted an event by the U.N. office, the Israeli Embassy, Albert Einstein College and the local Jewish community.
Mexico commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day through a ceremony in Congress co-sponsored by B´nai B´rith and a special recognition was presented to Bulgaria for its role during the Shoah. B’nai B’rith leader Dan Tartakovski coordinated B´nai B´rith’s co-sponsorship of the event.
The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry held a special event in the ministry to remember the Shoah and the main speaker was the Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel.
B’nai B'rith Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Program Focuses on Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews
In commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the United Nations, B’nai B’rith International focused attention at a New York program on “Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust,” and presented a citation in honor of Aron Grunhut for his extraordinary efforts saving Jews in Slovakia.
In introductory remarks, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination Fabrizio Hochschild, of Chile, spoke about his Jewish late grandfather’s little-known efforts, from Bolivia, to save thousands of Jewish refugees by helping them immigrate to that country.
This morning’s posthumous honoree, Grunhut, was an Orthodox businessman and leader in several Jewish organizations in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia. He began his rescue activities in 1938, when he participated in saving Jewish refugees sent to Hungary from Austria. At the same time, he had a tent camp built for stateless Jews in Slovakia, and organized their journey to the British mandate of Palestine. In 1939, he further chartered two steam boats to smuggle 1,365 Jews from Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Austria to pre-state Israel.
Grunhut was arrested in Slovakia in 1943 for his activity in the resistance. After his release, he joined his wife and young son, who were hidden under false identities, in Hungary. From a hiding place, Grunhut contacted the Hungarian underground and financed the smuggling of Jewish refugees by train from Budapest to Damascus, saving another 300 children. He himself found refuge in the basement of the former Czechoslovakian embassy in Budapest, living there with his wife and son until the end of the war. The family returned to Bratislava after the war, but left for Israel in 1948.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman welcomed Grunhut’s granddaughter, Yael Goren, who accepted the rescuer’s award on behalf of Benny Goren, her father, now a resident of Florida.
“We have gathered to focus on a unique, important and largely overlooked aspect of the history of the Holocaust. While for decades significant attention was justly focused on acknowledging and honoring non-Jews who heroically helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust — many of them are recognized by Israel’s national Holocaust authority, Yad Vashem, as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ — there has been far less awareness of Jews who, frequently enduring the most trying and precarious of circumstances themselves, took the initiative and risk to aid others facing Nazi persecution and mass murder,” Saltzman said.
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Haim Roet, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews during the Holocaust, also spoke at the event by phone from Israel. They discussed the history of the citation and why such recognition of Jewish rescue is necessary.
Goren spoke of Jew’s courageous efforts to save Jews.
“My grandfather, though many times he was the leading force behind his deeds, could not act alone. He had to have the support of other Jewish fighters and this is what they were, even if they didn’t carry a weapon. They put theirs and their dear ones’ lives at risk — at a higher risk — when it was risky enough just to be Jewish — selfless and fearless against all odds to save other people, other fellow Jews. My father would then celebrate his 90th birthday in just of a couple weeks, couldn’t be here today. I’m here on behalf of my father that would have been here on behalf of his father. Those that were younger kids during the war are now at least in their 80s. We have very limited time to make sure that all of these unknown brave stories are told and documented before we won’t have [anyone] to ask anymore,” Goren said.
B’nai B’rith’s program preceded the official U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony — addressed by the body’s secretary-general, Antonio Guterres — which leaders of the organization also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005. Last week, Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, in remarks on a U.N. panel, detailed many of B’nai B’rith’s efforts to commemorate the Holocaust, promote diversity and combat hatred around the globe.
Michaels said: “My organization was founded as a pioneer of civil-society humanitarianism by German Jewish immigrants in this city 175 years ago — a century before their peers and relatives would experience the culmination of unthinkable anti-Semitism and inhumanity in the Holocaust. And in the ashes of the Holocaust, my organization helped lead Jewish communal engagement in San Francisco in 1945 in the founding of the United Nations, as we have in the life of the U.N. ever since. And notwithstanding the well-known and real strains that have since emerged in this relationship, this engagement has reflected profound Jewish aspiration to see this body fulfill the vision of peace inscribed on the Isaiah Wall across the street from here.”
He concluded: “Vigilance and concrete action against all forms of bigotry remain critical at a time of resurgent Nazi-glorification in parts of Central Europe and elsewhere, of the rise of so-called racial nationalists in the United States, and of persistent Holocaust-denial and demonization of Jews across much of the Middle East.”
To view last week’s U.N. panel on the lessons of the Holocaust, click here.
To view today’s B’nai B’rith program on Jewish rescuers, click here.
Photos from the Event:
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith Milan, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust will confer a Jewish Rescuers Citation upon Enzo Cavaglion (98 years old), for saving the lives of Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation.
Enzo Cavaglion was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group “Italia Libera” (Free Italy), established on Sept. 12, 1943 — the same day that Cuneo, Italy was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division — by Duccio Galimberti, an outspoken anti-Fascist lawyer from Cuneo. They ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo, about halfway up the steep ridge separating the valley of the Gesso from the valley of the Stura to the north. Enzo and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, when they had to leave to help their own families escape arrest in Cuneo.
In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian Fascists, Enzo and Riccardo also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo. More than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled in the face of the German army that invaded the area following the announcement on Sept. 8 of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
Men, women, children, the elderly and disabled scaled the Maritime Alps over the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already roaming the area. About 300 people were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The remaining 700 found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. Enzo and Riccardo found hiding places for them, furnished them with the necessary documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis. Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them. Another survivor, Alfred Feldman, wrote in his memoir, “One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler’s Europe,” that he witnessed a daring theft of identity cards by Enzo and Riccardo from the mayor’s office in Vignolo, Italy, that were then falsified and distributed to some of the refugees. Enzo performed all of these activities despite the additional danger he faced as a result.
Following the presentation at Enzo Cavaglion’s home, a ceremony will take place on Jan. 21 at 3:30 p.m. (local time) at the Cuneo Synagogue in Contrada Mondovì, Italy.
The program includes speeches by key government officials, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Enzo’s son, noted history professor Alberto Cavaglion, who will formally accept the award.
B’nai B’rith Milan President Paolo Eliezer Foà will host the ceremony.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy.
For more information on the history of the Jewish Rescuers Citation click here.
photos from jewish rescuers' citation events in italy
Throughout November, B’nai B’rith International held commemorations across Latin America to remember Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.
In Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Uruguay, B’nai B’rith held remembrance programs marking the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht. In 1938, on Nov. 9 and 10, Nazis terrorized Jewish neighborhoods throughout Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia by vandalizing thousands of Jewish businesses and burning and destroying more than a thousand synagogues.
For the last 23 years, B’nai B’rith Argentina has organized Kristallnacht memorial ceremonies, and this year’s events took place in two locations. First in the capital city, Buenos Aires, where Christians and Jews shared a solemn interfaith and remembrance event. And also in the Province of Parana, where the government, represented by the Secretary of Human Rights Claudio Avruj and the Minister of Education Rosario Romero, together with B´nai B´rith and local authorities, joined in a huge event in the main square of the capital city and inaugurated a special plaque for the remembrance of Kristallnacht. “This is a very important event in order to educate all generations the horrors of the Holocaust, the need to learn about them, and the commitment to fight against those who even today violate human rights,” Romero said.
B’nai B’rith Uruguay hosted 600 people on Nov. 16 for its memorial ceremony. The keynote speaker was the former Vice President of Costa Rica Rebeca Grynspan who is the secretary general of the Ibero American Conference, an international multilateral institution which brings together the 19 Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries of Latin America plus Spain, Andorra and Portugal. The event was attended by the acting president of the country, Lucía Topolansky, former presidents Julio Sanguinetti and Luis Lacalle, ministers, ambassadors, commander in chief of the army, religious leaders, political leaders, Congressmen and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice. Grynspan made a strong speech on human rights and also underlined her personal history which she told the audience how a significant part of her family was slaughtered in the Shoah.
B’nai B’rith Chile and the Jewish Christian Confraternity organized a ceremony at the main Lutheran church in Chile. Another commemoration was held at the local Hebrew school, with several diplomats in attendance. The Israeli Ambassador Eldad Hayat was keynote speaker both times.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica held a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony at a huge theater and showed a screening of the documentary “The Night of the Broken Glass.”
B´nai B´rith Venezuela hosted in its hall in Caracas the commemoration of the Night of Broken Glass. The keynote speaker was the Rector of the Metropolitan University of Caracas Professor Benjamin Sharfiker.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
Throughout November, B’nai B’rith International will hold commemorations across the world to remember Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. In 1938, on Nov. 9 and 10, Nazis terrorized Jewish neighborhoods throughout Germany, Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia by killing at least 96 Jews, vandalizing thousands of Jewish businesses, and burning and destroying more than a thousand synagogues.
In Latin America, commemorations are expected to be held in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Panamá and Uruguay.
An exhibit featuring the last Swiss Holocaust survivors went on display at the plenary session of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Geneva in late June, with the support of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors was produced by Gamaraal Foundation, an organization that supports needy Holocaust survivors in Switzerland, with an additional emphasis placed on projects in Holocaust education. The exhibit was shown for the first time at the Swiss Embassy in Berlin during the official hand-over ceremony as Switzerland took over the presidency of the IHRA earlier this year.
B'nai B'rith member Anita Winter, founder and president of the Gamaraal Foundation, introduced the exhibit at the IHRA with a personal message about her father, a Holocaust survivor who fled Germany and took refuge in Switzerland during the war.
“If Hitler’s regime would have been completely successful, I would not be standing here today,” Winter said.
“Not many were so lucky like my parents and had the chance to start a new life in Switzerland and for that I am very thankful, more than I can tell you in words. Based on my family history, the memory of the Holocaust, the transfer of knowledge and the discussion of it are therefore very dear to my heart. This was my personal motivation to create the exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors,” Winter said.
Esther Hörnlimann, the project manager of the exhibition, said that “its primary aim is to reach young people who will soon not have the chance to meet survivors in person.”
“They need to grapple with the Holocaust in order to become aware of their own responsibility as human beings, so that they will take a stand against any similar horrible crimes being committed again anywhere in the world, against religious, ethnic or other minorities,” Hörnlimann said. “With the last survivors of the Holocaust we also lose the last witnesses. In this sense it was the last possible moment in which to realize such an exhibition at all.”
Most of the Holocaust survivors in Switzerland were not native born: some fled to Switzerland during the war, others came after the liberation for recuperation, and yet others arrived later as refugees from communism during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 or the Prague Spring of 1968, inter alia.
Details from the exhibit can be seen on the websites of the exhibition (https://www.last-swiss-holocaust-survivors.ch/de) and the Gamaraal Foundation (http://www.gamaraal.com/).
Click here to learn about how Winter’s parents survived the Holocaust
B’nai B’rith and JRJ Confer Citations on Jewish Holocaust Heroes
One falsified hundreds of documents, allowing children and their parents to escape from Holland. One, a dentist, hid the very sick at Auschwitz-Birkenau, so they would not be sent to the gas chambers. Another protected and hid Jewish children in the south of France before smuggling many to safety. Another rescued about 1,000 fellow Polish Jews, mainly infants, youngsters and teenagers, via a land route and a smuggling operation into Slovakia. One, among his many rescue efforts—sometimes directed from a hiding place—contacted the Hungarian underground and financed the smuggling of Jewish refugees by train from Budapest to Damascus, saving some 300 children.
Though they were in different countries, and used different methods, the end result of these efforts was the same: Jews saved other Jews from murder at the hands of the Nazis.
The brave and often overlooked stories of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust got special attention Monday when several of these heroes received deep gratitude and recognition for their valiant efforts.
“Rescuers themselves deserved something better than to be forgotten, having shown extraordinary courage,” said Dr. Mark Colb upon receiving the citation on behalf of his father, Ben Zion Kalb, who rescued Polish Jews by smuggling them into Slovakia. Mark Colb also said he was grateful to B’nai B’rith for focusing on this issue now.
B’nai B’rith International and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) presented Jewish rescuers citations to individuals, recognizing their courageous efforts, and those of their families, to ensure the survival of Jews during the Holocaust.
Hadassa Carlibach, daughter of Rabbi Zalman Schneerson and Sara Schneerson told the audience about her father: “During the war, he had a knack of anticipating … in a practical way that something will have to be done about something.” She said there was no stopping him in his rescue efforts. Carlibach, too, received an award for her efforts as a teenager helping her parents save Jews.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said at the event: “Thousands of Jews were saved by other Jews across Europe during the Holocaust. Many of these rescuers, rather than flee to ensure their own safety, chose to help other Jews escape.” Later he said: “It is critical that the effort of Jewish rescuers is remembered and we commit ourselves to sharing these stories that remind us all of the unique role these Jewish rescuers played in our history.” And he concluded after the event: “There are so many individual stories. It falls on us to make sure these stories are told to personalize what happened.”
Menachem Rosensaft accepted a citation on behalf of his mother, Hadassah Bimko-Rosensaft for her efforts to ensure the survival of fellow Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Menachem Rosensaft said that at gatherings of survivors, his mother was told over and over: “You don’t remember me but you saved my life.” He concluded that, though she lost her first husband and child to the gas chamber, she helped others and “perhaps she found strength and purpose in saving others, especially children.”
B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider, who traveled from Jerusalem for this event, noted: “Nearly 20 years ago, I was introduced by a dear friend and colleague—Holocaust survivor Haim Roet—to the phenomenon of the rescue of Jews by fellow Jews during the Holocaust. Like many people introduced to this topic for the first time, I too was surprised—even skeptical—that such cases existed let alone anything that could be described as a phenomenon. Intensive reading, research and activity on this issue since then has proved me and others wrong.”
Schneider a founding member of the JRJ and laid the groundwork for the Jewish Rescuers Citation.
Author and historian Mordecai Paldiel concluded the event. His extensive research on the topic of Jewish rescue has uncovered many stories. He said that many Jews were “actively involved” in trying to save other Jews. And he noted more should still be done.
The Jewish Rescuer’s Citation was established in 2011 to pay honor and respect to Jewish rescue of other Jews during the Shoah. To date, more than 170 Jewish heroes have been honored for their daring rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Holland.
Click here to read the full stories of these rescuers.
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