Heroes Who Risked Lives to Save Jews Remembered in Israel

Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

A drawing by Yehuda Bacon, an Auschwitz survivor. After the war Bacon took shelter in an orphanage in Prague, Czech Republic, run by Premsyl Pit; this painting is an autobiographical account. Close

A drawing by Yehuda Bacon, an Auschwitz survivor. After the war Bacon took shelter in... Read More

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Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

A drawing by Yehuda Bacon, an Auschwitz survivor. After the war Bacon took shelter in an orphanage in Prague, Czech Republic, run by Premsyl Pit; this painting is an autobiographical account.

A faceless man in yellow saves the life of a small pale-faced child. He leads the innocent boy away from a bloody corpse in a concentration camp. They walk past a barbed-wire fence. Their destination looks brighter. There’s a sunny horizon with a palm tree in the distance.

The scene is captured in a large drawing that is part of a Yad Vashem exhibition honoring those who risked their lives to help Jews. Yehuda Bacon, the artist, is an Auschwitz survivor, who after the war took shelter in an orphanage in Prague run by Premsyl Pitter. Pitter was recognized by Israel as “Righteous” for risking his life to aid Jewish people during the Holocaust.

“To the man who restored my faith in people,” reads the inscription at the bottom of the painting. Other works by Bacon hang throughout Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

The “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” show marks 50 years of honoring what Israel calls the Righteous Among the Nations. It is an exhibition that is built around recurring rescue stories - - those provided shelter for indefinite periods of time at great risk to their benefactors to the tale of hidden children and lost identities.

Over the past five decades, Yad Vashem has recognized more than 24,000 Righteous Among the Nations from 47 different countries.

Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

Unidentified Jews hidden by Robert Seduls, a Latvian janitor who promised to help a Jewish friend in time of need. A film at the Yad Vashem exhibit portrays the increasing pressure Seduls comes under as Nazis close in, bringing dogs to search the premises. Close

Unidentified Jews hidden by Robert Seduls, a Latvian janitor who promised to help a... Read More

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Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

Unidentified Jews hidden by Robert Seduls, a Latvian janitor who promised to help a Jewish friend in time of need. A film at the Yad Vashem exhibit portrays the increasing pressure Seduls comes under as Nazis close in, bringing dogs to search the premises.

“They did what they did at the time in great danger because they had a basic belief in humanity, in giving a hand to a fellow person no matter who he was,” said curator Yehudit Shendar. “This is something we need to contemplate. There are so many ‘others’ in our society of different shapes and forms. Are we able to open heart, hand and home to them?”

Midnight Black

The exhibition screens films on low-lying screens that sit in a dark, open room whose midnight-black walls are decorated with pins of light that coalesce into words and sayings and then disintegrate again into a starry sky.

On one screen, survivor Sabina Heller tells a tear-filled story of being reunited with the daughter of the Polish family that took her in as an emaciated two-year-old abandoned in a dark cellar and raised her as their own.

They later parted with her in a heart wrenching decision that allowed her to return to being Jewish.

“Stanka? Inka is speaking.. and I remember how she said, Inka we waited for this phone call for 50 years,” Heller says in the film.

A second film shows the plight of a group of Jews hidden by Robert Seduls, a Latvian janitor who had promised his friend to help him in time of need. The film shows the increasing pressure Seduls comes under as Nazis bring dogs to search the premises and how his anxiety bears on those he hides.

Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

Aisha Trofimova, left, embraced by survivor Rachel Davidson Shmeilowitz, who she helped Shmeilowitz in Minsk by giving food and helping to escape to the forest. Close

Aisha Trofimova, left, embraced by survivor Rachel Davidson Shmeilowitz, who she helped... Read More

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Source: Yad Vashem via Bloomberg

Aisha Trofimova, left, embraced by survivor Rachel Davidson Shmeilowitz, who she helped Shmeilowitz in Minsk by giving food and helping to escape to the forest.

Death March

In a third, the grandson of a farmer in the Netherlands learns about how his relative hid a Jewish family for months on his farm -- until they were discovered and deported to a concentration camp. The grandfather was also taken to the camps and was shot dead on a march from Sachsenhausen to Luebeck.

“We are talking about quite unusual people who did something completely out of the ordinary,” Shendar said. “They had courage and they had heart. These are two things that don’t always go together.”

“This is the meeting point between the Jew who was persecuted and the gentile who opened his heart and his home.”

“I Am My Brother’s Keeper: Marking 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nation” is at Yad Vashem Exhibitions Pavilion, Har Hazikaron, Jerusalem. Information: http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous/index.asp

(Gwen Ackerman writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Robert Heller on music, Jason Harper on cars, Ryan Sutton on food, Laurie Muchnick on books and Farah Nayeri on film.

To contact the reporter on the story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net

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