December 15, 2009

Shoah saviour repays a debt of gratitude


STEVEN Colman was 18 years old and fleeing from the Hungarian Nazis in Budapest when he knocked on the door of Zsuzsanna Reszeli and her 17-year-old daughter Karolina in November 1944.

Despite already hiding another young Jewish couple in their flat, the Reszelis took in Mr Colman and his mother Ilonka for three months at great risk to their own lives.

This month, more than six decades on, Karolina and her late mother were recognised for their heroism and declared Righteous Among the Nations -– the highest honour bestowed by Yad Vashem.

It concludes a lifetime journey for 83-year-old Mr Colman, who now resides in Sydney, in paying tribute to the people he credits with his survival.

”When I heard the news I couldn’t stop crying that finally, in a small way, I could repay our saviours,” he told The AJN.

”I’m crying now. It is a tremendous feeling despite the 65 years that have passed; I am overcome with emotion.”

Mrs Reszeli was a cleaner at the time and cared for Karolina, who was called Csopi (tiny) for her dwarfism. With their help, Mr Colman and his mother survived the war, as did his father, who was sheltered by a Budapest brothel owner.

”Nobody who has not lived through those dark days will ever really understand what those two righteous people did,” the Holocaust survivor said.

”To attempt to repay these two women after 65 years for their deeds is a privilege for which I am truly thankful,” he said, adding that he was grateful for the assistance of Baruch Tenenbaum, founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, for helping to bestow the honour on the Reszelis.

After the war, Mr Colman and his family relocated to England. In 1956, he moved with his wife to New Zealand before settling permanently in Australia.