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Thursday: Swiss Righteous Among the Nations Ceremony at Yad Vashem

20 February 2008

A ceremony honoring Swiss Righteous Among the Nations Anna (Née Riesen) Flescher will be held at Yad Vashem on Thursday, February 21, 2008, at 11:00. Anna Riesen Flescher rescued Dr. Joachim (Chaim) Flescher in Italy during the Holocaust. A memorial ceremony will be held in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, followed by the recognition ceremony in the Yad Vashem Synagogue at 11:20 and the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous. The ceremony will take place in English, in the presence of the Righteous, Anna Flescher, family members and Renate Shrenck, Cultural Attaché at the Swiss Embassy in Israel. To date, 22,211 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, including 44 from Switzerland.

The Rescue Story

Dr. Joachim (Chaim) Flescher was born in 1906 in Buczacz, East Galicia. When he was 8 years old his family moved to Stanislawow and 1923 he left Poland for Vienna in order to study medicine. Joachim eventually settled in Rome, where he established a thriving practice as a psychiatrist.

Anna Riesen came to Rome from Switzerland about the same time as Joachim. Her twin sister Klara worked as his assistant, and in 1942, when Klara returned to their native Switzerland, Anna replaced her. A year later, the Germans occupied northern and central Italy, and in October 1943, the deportation of the Italy’s Jews to the extermination camps began. The roundups resulted in the arrest and deportation of 1,800 Jews who were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Joachim managed to hide with one of his non-Jewish patients, and Anna took care of him, visiting and providing him with food. After a German raid on the house, Joachim and Anna decided that the safest place to hide would be his own apartment. Anna boldly reported to the Swiss Consulate that Joachim had fled, that his whereabouts were unknown, and that she was moving into his apartment. She then obtained a Swiss certificate of protection to place on the door. Joachim then slipped unnoticed into the house while the streets were deserted. Despite the ever-present danger of searches by both the Germans and Italian Fascists, Joachim remained hidden in the apartment for six months, until the liberation of Rome by the Allied Forces on June 4, 1944.

Joachim’s mother, sisters and extended family perished in the Holocaust. His father had died earlier. After the liberation of Rome, Joachim returned to his practice, and in 1949 moved to the US, following an invitation by the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Anna joined him in 1950 and they were subsequently married. The couple had two daughters, Diana and Sylvia.

Over the years, Dr. Flescher’s reputation as an expert in his field grew. He published several books on psychiatry, and wrote a book on the psychological underpinnings of the Holocaust. Dr. Flescher passed away in 1976.