November 5, 2012

Louise and Joseph Materne received the posthumous title of Righteous among the Nations – following the research efforts of the IRWF

Louise and Joseph Materne have received the posthumous title of “Righteous among the Nation”s in a moving ceremony which took place on November 1, 2012, at Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem.

The ceremony was initiated at the Hall of Remembrance with the attendance of the granchildren of the saving couple, Daniel and Patricia Materne, who especially flew to Israel from Belgium for the occasion and lit the symbolic eternal flame.  Also attended Dr. Zalman Shiffer, who as a child was saved by the Materne’s, and the Ambassadors of Belgium and Spain.

The ceremony continued at the Garden of the Righteous, where Patricia and Daniel received the medal and diploma for the feats of their grandparents, who saved the life of the little Zalman (then called Zenon Fajertag), who was previously unknown to them.

During the dark days of WWII, Louise and Joseph Materne gave shelter to the little Zenon (nowadays known as Dr. Zalman Shiffer). Zenon’s mother, Chaya Sarah,  in her state of anguish, gave her little child to the couple, who were unknown to her, with the aim of saving his life from the Nazis. The Materne’s did not have children of their own, but earlier on they had given shelter to Juanito, a Spanish orphan boy who escaped from the horrors of the Spanish civil war.

Both Zenon and Juanito lived like brothers, sharing the love of the Materne’s warm home, till the very end of the war. Joseph was active with the Belgian Resistance and together with his wife, they did not hesitate to offer shelter to a Jewish child, even knowing the dire consequences they would face if caught.

In the wake of the war, Zenon was reclaimed by his mother and they both continued their relationship with his rescuers. Back in 1949, Zenon and his mother emigrated to Israael and ever since, the contact with the Materne’s was lost.

Zalman has tried for many years to regain contact with his saviors and with Juanito.  Eventually, only after a thorough and worldwide research made by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Zalman manages (70 years after the end of the war) to locate the descendants of the saving couple. Both Louise and Joseph, as well as their adopted son, Juanito, had already passed away, but as far as Zalman was concerned, his reunion with the daughter and son of his “brother” was of great significance.

Patricia and Daniele Materne received the medal and diploma of the Righteous on behalf of their late grandparents and they unveiled the names of the former, which were especially engraved on the Wall of Honor.