Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives.
By World Israel News Staff
For the 19th consecutive year, the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) will hold a joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).
This year’s event, taking place Thursday morning at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem, will commemorate the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust. 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 program will begin with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors and rescuers. During the ceremony, the “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred on 13 rescuers who operated in France, Holland, Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Czechia and Denmark.
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, B’nai B’rith said in a press release. 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, or assisted them in escaping to safe havens, 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,” the release said.
Anna van Dam-Drukker was a convert to Judaism and a student of medicine. With the advice of her rabbi she obtained a falsified baptism certificate and was registered as a Christian so that she could assist other persecuted Jews.
At the beginning of 1943 she was active with the students’ underground movement in Amsterdam (ASG) headed by Righteous Among the Nations Piet Meerburg, which hid 350 Jewish children in Christian homes, saving their lives. Van Dam-Drukker herself smuggled children from Amsterdam—also from the De Creche—to remote villages. She was arrested on Nov. 22, 1943 after she heroically extricated a child from a hidden location after it became known that the girl was to be handed over to the Germans the next day.
Van Dam-Drukker was imprisoned in seven concentration camps, including Auschwitz where she served as a physician. After the war she helped to find the children she hid; some of whom the Dutch government petitioned the court against their return to their Jewish birth family.
Hubert Pollack operated with Captain Francis “Frank” Foley—a British intelligence officer stationed in Berlin—and with Wilfred Israel, his supervisor at the “Hilfsverein” (Relief Organization of German Jews) in Berlin, to rescue Jews. He cultivated relationships with Gestapo officers, bribing them with the money he received from Israel while Captain Foley provided the exit visas from Germany.
Sacha Maidenberg operated from early 1942 to rescue Jews under the Les Eclaireurs Israelites (EI), the clandestine arm of the Jewish Scouts in France, and under the “Zionist Youth Movement.” She transferred the first child convoy out of Morzine in France to Switzerland together with her future husband Maurice Maidenberg.
Maurice Maidenberg initiated a plan to transfer one of the first convoys of children from France to Switzerland by foot over the Alps. Maurice and Sacha returned to France and conveyed successive convoys of children to Switzerland and also falsified documents.
Marc Jarblum operated in various ways to promote resistance activity and prevent Jews from being arrested. Thanks to his stature and influence he managed to direct funds from the Joint to the rescue of Jews in France. He was a member of the central command of the Jewish Army that focused activities on the rescue of Jews. He was under surveillance of the Gestapo and was smuggled to Switzerland by the Resistance where he continued to operate.
Chaviva Raick and Raphael Reisz, together with other British army paratroopers from Mandatory Palestine, provided food, clothing, medical treatment and shelter to Jews living in the liberated territory of Slovakia and made contact with other members of Jewish Youth Movements fighting in Partisan units. They established a network of safe houses from Poland to Slovakia to smuggle prisoners and pilots of the Allied Forces. Raick and Reisz, along with 200 other Jews, were shot and buried in a mass grave in Kremnica, Slovakia on Nov. 20, 1944.
Zelda Treger-Nissanilevich was a member of the United Partisans Organization. She conveyed groups of Jews escaping from a work camp in Estonia to the Rudnicka woods in Lithuania. She also transferred medications to the Partisans.
Zvi Hirsch escaped from the Stowbtsy Ghettoin Belarus to the forest and joined a Partisans brigade. He participated in the smuggling of some 200 Jews from Schvernazza Camp—among them women and children—to the Partisans in Naliboki forest.
Jakub Reisz smuggled Jewish refugees from Slovakia to Budapest in 1941. One of those smuggled was captured and, as a result, Reisz was arrested. He was transferred between camps until he arrived at Auschwitz. After the liberation he went back to Budapest, made Aliya and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Ga’aton.
Dr. Herta Graz served as a physician escorting the Kindertransport from Prague to England. She came back to Prague to escort a second group, after Czechoslovakia had been occupied by Nazi Germany in September 1939. When WWII broke out she was forced to stay in England and volunteered as a nurse in a hospital for women and girls in London that was damaged in the Blitz. She participated in the rescue of mothers and babies.
Elhanan Yitzhaki was a 23-year-old youth counselor in “Aliyat Ha’noar.” He led a group of young Jews from Denmark to Mandatory Palestine via Russia, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, while risking his life.
Bouli and Shatta Simon were married in Paris in 1933. From the German invasion of France in 1940 Bouli rescued children and young Jews, transporting them to the Jewish Scouts (Les Eclaireurs Israelites) house in Moissacunder the Vichy regime, where he was in charge. The house also provided refuge to young Jews escaping forced labor and the Gestapo.
When it was revealed that the Gestapo was about to raid the house, Bouli evacuated them, with the help of Shatta and Righteous Among the Nations Gilbert Lessage, to the Tarn district and to Spain, and from there to Israel. He exposed himself and endangered his life when he could have lived in safety using false documents.
Shatta managed to obtain the cooperation of Moissac municipality secretary Manuel Darrac and his assistant Alice Pelous, who were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. They provided stamps used to falsify documents for children. After the war Shatta located the hidden children.