Holocaust Day Ceremony Honoring the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
For the fourteenth consecutive year, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, together with the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, held a unique joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day - the only one dedicated to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the years of torment in Europe.
Some 200 Border Patrol Cadets who provided an honor guard as well as high school students participated in the ceremony together with Jewish rescuers and survivors. The ceremony, which was very sensitively emceed by KKL-JNF Public Relations Director Elisha Mizrahi, took place at the Scroll of Fire Plaza in KKL-JNF’s Martyrs Forest in the Judean Hills.
This years' event memorialized the rescue efforts of Shmuil Markowitz Pewzner (b. 1912 Belorussia – d. 1991 Russia). Pewzner served as the director of the Polish troupe in the Soviet Pioneers Camp in Druskeninkai, Lithuania in June 1941 when the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa and attacked the area. Pewzner succeeded in rescuing all 300 children in the camp, including about 140 Jewish children from Bialystok and its environs, and retreating with them by train while under German aerial attack to the safety of the Soviet Far East. Pewzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic under government patronage, caring for them through extreme weather conditions and shortages until the War’s end. The children were repatriated to Poland in 1946 and most immigrated to Israel. Pewzner was decorated by Poland and the Soviet Union for his rescue of children and the director of the Lithuanian troupe at the camp, Stasys Sviderskis, was recognized in 1997 by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile.
Addressing the audience, KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar said that Jews who rescued other Jews from the Nazi’s murder machine serve as an inspiration and source of pride for the Jewish people. “Many of them worked together with non-Jews to accomplish their sacred task, a symbol of brotherhood and human dignity during such dire times. We remember Shmuil Pewzner’s bravery and sense of solidarity with his people. The Jewish People is still fighting for its existence in Israel and throughout the world, whether it be in Europe or against terrorists here who stab people in the streets. Our moral obligation towards the six million is to always insure that the state of Israel will be a safe haven for every Jew, anywhere in the world, who chooses to make his home here.”
Shmuil Pewzner’s son, Dr. Mark Pewzner, who received the posthumous citation on behalf of his father, said that it was a great honor for him to attend the ceremony. “I would often ask my father how he was able to save so many children, and he would answer me that it could only have happened with God’s help. We are on a journey of memory, and we must never forget what happened to our people during World War II.”
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