Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust honored in Warsaw




  • In World
  • 2019-09-08 16:35:48Z
  • By Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - A U.S.-based Jewish foundation held an event in Warsaw on Sunday to honor Polish gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, a number that grows smaller each year, with U.S. and Israeli diplomats also paying their respects to the elderly Poles who put their lives in danger to save others.

Those still living today, 80 years after the start of World War II, were children or young adults during the war, and in most cases helped their parents in the dangerous job of hiding and feeding Jews. During the German occupation, those caught aiding Jews were punished with the execution of entire families.

Today, the rescuers are in their 80s and 90s, and they arrived at the event in Warsaw helped by their children, with some in wheelchairs.

"On behalf of the Jewish people, I thank you for your noble deeds so many years ago, for when most turned their backs on their Jewish neighbors, you did not," Stanlee Stahl, the foundation's executive vice president, told those gathered. "You will always be remembered in our prayers for you didn't just save the Jewish person 75 years ago, you made it possible for generations to be born."

Giving one example, she singled out two brothers in attendance, Andrzej and Leszek Mikolajkow, who with their parents saved a Jewish mother, father and two sons. One of those sons ended up moving to Israel and having 12 sons of his own, and the family today numbers 300.

"You made it possible for hundreds if not thousands of people to be alive today," Stahl said. "You have helped repair the world."

All of the rescuers have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum and memorial.

According to Yad Vashem's website, 27,362 people have been recognized to date as "Righteous Among the Nations," even though there are certainly many more who helped Jews who haven't been recognized because they were killed or there were no survivors to alert Yad Vashem to their actions. The country with the largest number of acknowledged rescuers, with far over 6,000, is Poland, which was home to Europe's largest Jewish community before World War II.

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous pays monthly stipends to elderly rescuers in Eastern Europe, many of whom live on pensions of only a few hundred dollars a month in Poland and far less in Ukraine and elsewhere. Last Christmas each rescuer got an additional $1,500 for Christmas, a gesture that goes far beyond just symbolic help, and the group has also helped them with medicines and hearing aids.

Warsaw is the only place in Europe where there are enough of them in one place to bring together. On Sunday, there were about 30 in attendance.

Due to sanctions on Russian-annexed Crimea, the organization can no longer send money, however, to a small group of rescuers there, a situation that Stahl described as distressing in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Before the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the group was helping five people there.

At one point, she received a letter from a Jewish woman in Israel who was rescued by a woman in Crimea, begging her to send money. But with U.S. sanctions in place, it is illegal to do so.

During the Warsaw event, Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, asked God to bless them, and described them as a "model for the kind of people that God wants us to be."

Israeli Ambassador-designate, Alexandre Ben-Zvi, paid his respects to them, while the U.S. deputy chief of mission, Bix Aliu, who is of Albanian heritage, paid tribute to their extraordinary courage. In personal remarks, Aliu described meeting an elderly rescuer in Albania, a Muslim majority country that was the only country in Europe where the number of Jews was larger at the end of the war than before due to a nationwide effort to save Jews.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products
Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

The European Union's top court ruled Tuesday that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels, in a decision that was welcomed by rights groups but sparked anger in Israel. The European Court of Justice said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an "indication of that provenance" so that consumers can make "informed choices" when they shop. The EU rejects Israeli settlement expansion, saying it undermines the hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up lands claimed by the Palestinians.

Israeli airstrike kills Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza home
Israeli airstrike kills Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza home

The Israeli strike killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife, setting off a furious barrage of dozens of rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv.

AP Explains: A look at the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza
AP Explains: A look at the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza
  • World
  • 2019-11-12 12:50:54Z

An Israel airstrike in the Gaza Strip has killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta, a senior militant with the Islamic Jihad group, setting off the worst bout of fighting in recent months. Israeli officials described el-Atta as the mastermind of recent attacks against Israel and the militant group's top commander in Gaza. Tuesday's violence marked the latest in a long history of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, an armed group that is backed by Iran.

Jordan
Jordan's king visits enclave day after reclaimed from Israel
  • World
  • 2019-11-11 18:27:32Z

Jordan's king visited one of two small areas of land that - until a day earlier - were leased to Israel as part of their 1994 peace agreement on Monday. Jordan's decision to not renew the 25-year lease and to reassume control over the two small territories comes amid rocky relations with Israel. Jordan's peace agreement with Israel, signed in 1994, is only the second peace deal between Israel and an Arab country, following Egypt.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World