Karolina Reszeli and her late mother Zsuzsanna were declared ”Righteous among the Nations,” the highest honor bestowed by Yad Vashem, the ”Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.” The decision was ratified by the retired Supreme Justice, Mr. Jacob Turkel, Chairman of the Commission for Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.
On October 27, 2008, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation distinguished Karolina and Zsuzsanna Reszeli in an event organized at the John Wesley Theological College in Budapest. Two medals were presented to the Reszelis at the event: The Raoul Wallenberg Medal and The Esfira Maiman Women Rescuers Medal and their respective diplomas. At the same time, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation documented the dossier and presented it to Yad Vashem with a strong recommendation to have both women declared Righteous among the Nations.
Ilonka Kalman and her 18-year-old son Steve Kalman (today Colman), were sheltered in the Budapest home of Zsuzsanna Reszeli and her daughter Karolina nicknamed ”Csöpi” (”midget” in Hungarian). Although Karolina was 17 at the time, she had a height of the normal three year old. Both Karolina and her mother went through great danger in providing the shelter and food for Kalmans without ever doubting their decision to help.
On that occasion, Mr. Colman said: ”Karolina is part of our family now, and humanity can be justly proud that there still are some people like her and her mother. Csöpi survived breast cancer, her vertebrae is twisted and she had brain hemorrhage and stroke which made her arm useless. But if you were to need help even now she would offer refuge to a persecuted or any who might need her assistance. Csöpi and her late mother are the real heroes of those awful times 64 years ago. Not those of us who survived are the heroes, but the Reszeli women and some people like Wallenberg, who really had no connection to those whom they decided to help.”
The Israel Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp upon an initiative of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
The distinction acknowledged the courageous humanitarian feats displayed by mother and daughter during the dreaded reign of of the Nazis and their local collaborators in Budapest, Hungary. Amidst constant threat to their own lives, Zsuzsanna and Karolina gave shelter at their own home to several Jews.
Steve Colman, today an Australian citizen, and his late mother survived thanks to Zsuzanna y Karolina Reszeli’s actions of solidarity, bravery and civic courage.
The letter from Steve Colman to Yad Vashem
1 December 2009
Ms Irena Steinfeldt
Dear Ms Steinfeldt,
I received the news of the late Zsuzsanna Reszeli and Karolina Reszeli having been declared Righteous among the Nations during the night and I wish to express my thanks to you and all the others who have contributed and worked towards this.
I must specially thank Baruch Tenembaum, whom I never met, but who has sustained me and with whom last night I could shed a few tears as he passed on the news, that finally in a small way I could repay to my Mother’s saviour the heroic deed her Mother and her have been involved in from November 1944 until 18th January 1945. My thanks to Mr. Tenembaum also applies to the members of his organisation.
Nobody who has not lived through those dark days will ever really understand what those two righteous people did and that I have been able with the help of you and others to attempt to repay these two women after 65 years for deeds, which they do not ever considered heroic to-day, is a privilege for which I am truly thankful. Not that they can ever be repaid!
I do not know what, if any benefit is attached to a person who is declared Righteous, but I know that the State of Israel or the Jewish community could never ever find a greater appreciation than I would give these two splendid and unassuming people, who were great in our hours and days of need.