"Jews Rescuing Jews" Ceremony in the Martyrs Forest

Tuesday, April 06, 2021 11:00 AM

On Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, the Bnei Brith World Center and KKL-JNF will hold a ceremony unique both in Israel and abroad dedicated to the heroism of Jews who rescued other Jews.

The Scroll of Fire in KKL-JNF 's Martyrs Forest. (Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
This year's ceremony is dedicated to the heroism of Wilhelm Fielderman and Yitzhak Artzi (Romania), Jose Aboulker (Algeria) and ten additional Jewish rescuers who were active in Poland, France, Hungary, Austria and Belgium. For the first time, residents of the land of Israel who risked their lives saving other Jews during the Holocaust will also be honored: The parachutist Hannah Senesh and the director of the Jewish Agency Aliya Department, Moshe Haim Shapira.

On Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, which this year falls on Thursday, 26 Nisan, 5781/April 8, 2021, the Bnei Brith World Center and KKL-JNF will hold a ceremony unique both in Israel and abroad dedicated to marking the heroism and heritage of Jews who rescued other Jews during the Holocaust. The ceremony will take place at the Scroll of Fire plaza in KKL-JNF 's Martyrs Forest and will begin when the siren sounds at 10:00. Due to Corona limitations, this year's ceremony will take place in the presence of a limited number of people, including representatives of the families of the rescuers, survivors and speakers. The ceremony will be broadcast live on YouTube.

Speakers at the ceremony include KKL-JNF World Chairman Avraham Duvdevani; Bnei Brith World Center Chairman Haim Katz; Brigadier General Yehuda Yehoshua, Commander of the Border Police Military Corps School; the Romanian Ambassador to Israel, Radu Ioanid; Arye Barnea, attorney-at-law and the Chairman of the Jews Rescued Jews Committee; and Noam Semel, the Director General of the Habimah National Theater, the son-in-law of Yitzhak Artzi and the brother-in-law of the singer Shlomo Artzi. During the ceremony, Jewish Rescuers Citations will be presented to 13 Jewish rescuers who were active in Algeria, Romania, Hungary, France, Poland, Austria and Belgium by the Bnei Brith World Center and the Jews Rescued Jews Committee (JRJ).

In what has become an annual tradition, the ceremony was held at Martyrs Forest in the shade of the Scroll of Fire monument, which tells the story of the exile, the Holocaust, and the rebirth of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Martyrs Forest which was planted in the 1950s, is the largest joint project of the Bnei Brith World Organization and KKL-JNF, along with being the first Holocaust memorial site to be created in Israel. About six million trees have been planted in this forest in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. In various sites throughout the forest there are memorials in memory of the many communities that were destroyed and also in memory of Bnei Brith members from Germany and throughout occupied Europe who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Since the end of the year 2000, a group of survivors from Jerusalem, the JRJ and representatives of the Bnei Brith World Center have been promoting diverse activities whose goal is to position the topic of the Jewish rescuers on the public agenda. The committee also collects the stories of Jewish rescuers in a data base that already includes hundreds of rescuers. "Jewish Rescuers Citations" was established in 2011 with the purpose of honoring the work of the heroes who had the courage to help their brethren in times of distress and to rebel against the bitter fate that the Germans had in store for each and every Jew. They risked their lives and demonstrated exemplary solidarity in order to ensure continued Jewish existence on the soil of Europe or to help them arrive at safe shores. To date, citations have been presented to about 350 Jewish rescuers from Germany, Holland, France, Slovakia, Greece, Russia, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Austria, Belarus, Italy, Poland, Morocco, Algeria, Hungary and Belgium.
To watch the ceremony live on YouTube click this link:
Background information on recipients of Jewish Rescuers Citations at the ceremony honoring Jewish rescuers who are no longer alive:

Jose Aboulker – the head of the Jewish underground in Algeria. He paved the way for the conquest of the city by the Allied forces, which prevented the deportation of the Jews.

Yitzhak Artzi – one of heads of the Zionist-halutz underground in Romania. He was sent as a liaison to Transnistria by the Jewish community and he brought back hundreds of children who otherwise would have been killed.

William Bechner – an engineer born in Poland who, disguised as an Aryan, was employed in a German company with branches in Poland and the Ukraine. Bechner gave jobs to members of his families and other Jews whose lives were in danger and saved them by doing so. He continued his rescue work even after his true identity was discovered.

Yaakov Gottsfried – the head of a group of Jewish partisans in Brussels. The group was active in rescuing Jews in various ways, including burning the lists of Jews from Brussels in order to prevent their being captured and deported to the concentration camps.

Sarah Flezenstein-Gottsfried – one of the first women to be recruited for the sabotage group of Jewish partisans. She was also active in the Committee for Defending Jews (CDJ) in Belgium. As part of her work she found hiding places for Jews in monasteries and in Christian families, forged documents, raised funds and distributed food vouchers to families that hid Jews.

Hannah Senesh – one of seven parachutists from the land of Israel who were killed in the Second World War. Senesh volunteered to infiltrate the country of her birth – Hungary – under the auspices of the Jewish Agency and the British Army, in order to organize resistance, save Jews and provide intelligence to the British.

Ruth Uzrar – a member of the French Zionist youth movement, as part of which she transferred children to hiding places and helped forge documents.

Rudolph Port – a member of the Jewish resistance in France. He forged documents and helped find hiding places for Jews. He was responsible for transferring funds that came from Switzerland to the underground.

Wilhelm Fielderman – a member of the Romanian parliament, the Romanian representative of the Joint and the head of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. He took advantage of his personal contacts with the dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, the Romanian leader during the Holocaust, in order to ease edicts issued against the Jews and to save those who were in danger of their lives. By doing so, he risked his own life and was eventually deported to Transnistria as punishment for his petitions.

Leah Linn-Kaufmann – was active as part of the OSE-Garel Network in hiding children and dealing with the social problems of people in hiding.

Vitka Kampfner-Kovner – a member of the "United Partisans Association", an underground organization in the Vilna Ghetto that was headed by Abba Kovner. She served as the liaison between the ghetto and the Aryan side of the city. After one of the sabotages she decided on her own and against her officer's command to move a group of 60 Jewish non-combatants to the forest. By doing so, she saved their lives.

Nahum Ramba – during the time of the "Great Aktion" (July – September 1942) he was in an ambulance at the entrance to the Umschlagplatz - the plaza in the Warsaw Ghetto where the Jews were assembled before their deportation to the extermination camps. By means of bribery he convinced the guards not to force some of the Jews into the train cars, and by doing so, he saved hundreds of children and adults.

Moshe Haim Betzalel Shapira – In the framework of his position as the head of the Jewish Agency Aliya Department, he met with Adolph Eichmann in August 1939 at the Gestapo offices in Vienna, which led to the rescue of a few thousand local Jews who immigrated to Israel thanks to certificates that were in the possession of the Yishuv leadership, in exchange for paying ransom.
For additional information:
Golan Yosefon, World Bnei Brith Center spokesperson - 0525625135