July 18, 2010

Righteous Gentiles honored in Warsaw


(JTA) — Some 50 Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews in Poland during the Holocaust, were honored in Warsaw.

The luncheon Sunday in Warsaw was ”one of the largest-ever gatherings of Holocaust rescuers and one of the last of its kind, as many of these rescuers are elderly,” a spokesperson for the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which hosted the event, told JTA.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, and the Israeli and U.S. ambassadors to Poland also attended.

All the honorees live in the Warsaw area, though during the war they had saved Jews in other Polish towns as well.

Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, said the significance of the event was underscored by the fact that it took place just three days after vandals defaced the grave in Warsaw of Irene Sendler, who helped smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Polish television reported that the phrase ”Jews Out” had been scrawled on Sendler’s tomb. Sendler died in 2008 at the age of 98.

”While we are taking this time to honor these Holocaust rescuers, anti-Semitism is still prevalent,” Stahl said.

She said she would visit Sendler’s grave on Monday and also scheduled a meeting with Sendler’s granddaughter.

The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous was created in 1986 to provide financial assistance to non-Jews who risked their lives and often the lives of their families to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The organization supports more than 900 aged and needy rescuers in 23 countries, including providing monthly financial support to 471 people in Poland.