(Jerusalem, Dec. 5, 2018)— The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust announced during the Chanukah holiday that they will posthumously honor with their Jewish Rescuers Citation 18 Jewish heroes who risked their own lives to rescue fellow Jews. Seventeen of the honorees are leaders of the Comité de Défence des Juifs en Belgique (CDJ), the joint Jewish/non-Jewish Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium: Abusz Werber, Chaim Perelman, Maurice Heiber, Benjamin Nykerk, Ghert Jospa, Yvonne Jospa, Esta Heiber, Sophie Werber, Fela Perelman, Ida Sterno, Abraham Monastir, Joseph Sterngold, Pauline Trocki, George Livchitz, Leopold Flam, Erna Stern and Israel Tabakman.
The CDJ was established by five disparate Jewish organizations and one non-Jewish organization following the first deportations from Antwerp and Brussels by the Nazis in August 1942. Until then, the different organizations had undertaken independent rescue operations. It operated as an underground resistance group with the purpose of helping Jews – especially children – evade deportation through various illegal methods, mainly hiding, but also the provision of false credentials.
Six of the eight founding members were eventually arrested and deported, and only two of them survived. The Committee was the single largest Jewish clandestine organization in wartime Europe, with 768 activists. It is credited with ensuring the survival of 3,000 Jewish children and as many as 10,000 adults. Some 55 percent of Belgium’s prewar Jewish population of 66,000 (90 percent of them non-citizens) survived the war due to staying hidden, the actions of the committee and the heroism of Belgian non-Jewish rescuers, many of whom have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. CDJ assumed the task of conveying the children to new homes and keeping tabs on how they were cared for. This task necessitated a great deal of travel and was therefore the province of non-Jewish women members, who were the least likely to raise the suspicion of the Germans and their Belgian collaborators.
The eighteenth rescuer to be honored with the Jewish Rescuers Citation is Mania Zeidman, who endangered herself to rescue fellow Jews while working in the Ober Altstadt Concentration Camp infirmary in Germany. Zeidman allowed recovering women to remain in the infirmary so that they would not have to face the hardship of work outside that would have surely lead to their death in the harsh conditions. By these actions she endangered herself, earning the wrath of sadistic doctors who beat her often.
More than 200 Jewish rescuers from 14 countries – now including Belgium – have been recognized by the Jewish Rescuers Citation since its inception in 2011 for their demonstration of human and Jewish solidarity, which they demonstrated by endangering their lives to rescue others.
For more information about the Jewish Rescuers Citation, please contact Alan Schneider, director, B’nai B’rith World Center—Jerusalem 02-6251743.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org