Israel posthumously honors Czech pastor who saved Jews in the Holocaust

Yad Vashem posthumously honored a Czech pastor as “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving six Jews during the Holocaust. 

By: World Israel News Staff

Israel recently honored Pastor Vaclav Cermak as Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews during the Holocaust.

Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic Daniel Meron, together with the Mayor of Prague Jana Černochová, on Tuesday took part in a ceremony marking the event at the New Town Hall of Prague.

Meron presented a commemorative medal and certificate to Marie Cermakova, Cermak’s daughter, on behalf of the state of Israel and Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Cermak is the 117th citizen from the Czech Republic, or former Czechoslovakia, to be granted this honor by Yad Vashem.
The award ceremony was accompanied by an exhibition “Beyond duty: Diplomats who became Righteous Among the Nations”.

The “Righteous Among the Nations” designation is a title bestowed upon gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Israel has recognized over 26,500 such individuals.

Cermak hid two Jewish families in a cottage in the mountains in 1944.

After the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising in August of that year, the Germans launched a hunt for Jews and members of the local resistance.

With the worsening situation, the Weisenberger and Schönfeld families decided to leave their homes in Prešov. Ľudovít Repáš, an employee of the Prešov City Hall, secured fake documents and sent them to Vaclav Čermák, a Baptist preacher in Klenovec.

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Čermák took care of the two families. The Weisenbergers, who now used the name Vasenko, hid in Grlica, and Schönfeld, now Váňa, hid near his own home.

With the increasing intensity and danger of searches organized by the Germans and Slovak collaborators, many Klenovec residents fled to the mountains.

Ján Balciar, one of the remaining inhabitants of Klenovec, decided to leave, and insisted that Čermák and his family flee to the mountains as well. However, Čermák refused to abandon the Jews in hiding and insisted that he go with them.

The entire group, Ján Balciar with his pregnant wife and two children, Vaclav Čermák with his family, Ignác and Margo Weisenberger and their nine-year-old daughter Viera, made the dangerous way to hiding in the mountains together. The next day, Imanuel and Johann Schönfeld joined them.

However, the mountain shelter did not mean the end of their worries.

At one point, an SS patrol discovered the cottage. They found the pastor and several other women, while the men were hiding during the day in the forest. It was strange to the German soldiers that there were so many people in the house. Cermak told them that one of the women had a baby, and the rest were relatives who had come to the baptism ceremony, and that ongoing battles in the area prevented them from returning home. The SS patrol was suspicious, but eventually they left, harming no one.

The group was later extended by another Jewish woman, who was banished by those who had hid her because the local German commander said that anyone caught helping Jews would be shot dead with their whole family.

All six Jews hidden together with their rescuers in the cottage survived to see the end of the war.