Their Legacies Remain…
We Remember Oswald
"The destruction of the Jews in our ghetto was no different from the fate of all the other Jewish communities, great and small, across Nazified Europe. We, the sons and daughters of the town of Mir, remember the man and the phenomenon named Oswald, thanks to whom we fled, whoever fled, by the skin of our teeth. … You, Shmuel, belong to us alone, to the survivors and to those who died from the Mir ghetto. You belong to the Jews and above all, to the Jews of Mir. … Dearest Shmuel! And forgive me that I find it hard to call you – Brother Daniel." Yehuda Packer at the Mir Immigrant's Gathering, 1991
Oswald Rufeisen was born in 1921 in the town of Zadziele in the Krakow region. In November 1941 he came to Mir bearing false identity papers, and began working as a translator at the local police station. Rufeisen told the Jews in the Mir ghetto of the planned aktions against them, and smuggled weapons to the ghetto underground. Thanks to him some 200 Jews managed to escape from the ghetto to the forests and join the partisans. After the liquidation of the ghetto, Rufeisen's real identity was revealed and he was arrested. He managed to escape from the police station in Mir and hide from August 1942 until December 1943 in a monastery near the police headquarters, from where the hunt for him was still being conducted. During his stay at the monastery, Rufeisen decided to convert to Christianity. At the end of 1943 he left the monastery and joined the partisan unit in the Naliboki Forest. There he was suspected by Soviet partisans that he had cooperated with the Nazis, but the escapees from Mir protected him and cleared his name.
After the war, Rufeisen joined the Carmelite Order and became a Catholic priest. He changed his name to "Brother Daniel." In 1958 he emigrated to Israel and joined the Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel. From the moment he arrived in Israel he was adopted by the community of ex-Mir residents – especially the survivors – as one of their own.
"I experienced everything in my lifetime, and I no longer fear death. I am afraid of memory. I don't know if I am to be doomed or spared, but from all the things you may know about me, I would like you to remember that I was born a Jew, and died a Jew". From the will of Oswald Rufeisen
Oswald Rufeisen died in Haifa in 1998.