03 April 2005
A ceremony posthumously honoring seven Righteous Among the Nations will take place at Yad Vashem tomorrow, April 4, 2005 at 11:30am. The awards will be bestowed upon the following people who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust at great personal risk: Jan and Apolonia Komarnicki together with their son Piotr Komarnicki from Poland; Zofia Swierczynska also from Poland; husband and wife Jozef and Anna Karasek from the Czech Republic; and Franjo Puncuh from Yugoslavia. Children of the rescuers will be receiving the awards on their behalf.
The ceremony will be conducted in Hebrew and Polish in the presence of Polish Ambassador H.E. Mr. Jan Piekarski , Serbia & Montenegro Ambassador H.E. Mrs. Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov, and Czech Consul H.E. Mrs. Ivana Zuntova, and families of survivors - of which Dr. Wanda Bincer, Lutek Meshorer, Gedalya Raf, Ester Shein Roter, Bozenna De Cler-Swierczynska will be present. The program is as follows:
11:30 Presentation of the awards and medals in the Yad Vashem Auditorium
12:30 Unveiling of names in the Garden of the Righteous
Jan and Apolonia Komarnicki and their son Piotr from Poland - saved Esther Shein-Roter. After living with her parents in the Turka Ghetto in Lvov, a few days before the deportations from the Lvov ghetto to another city, Esther’s parents handed her to a young farmer by the name of Piotr Komarnicki, who brought her to the house of his parents, Jan and Apolonia Komarnicki. The parents hid her in their house and made sure that nobody knew she was there. There were anxious instances of surprise searches, most likely due to informants, but Esther’s hiding place was never discovered. Sometimes she had to be taken to a nearby forest where the Komarnickis’ children would bring her food, keep her company and keep her mind off the state of her parents until the danger passed. After liberation, the Breitbart family, friends of Esther’s parents, collected her and informed her that her parents had been killed in the war. The rescuers’ children Mrs. Wladyslawa Komarnicki and Mr. Eugeniusz Komarnicki will be attending the ceremony to receive the awards on their parents’ behalf.
Zofia Swierczynska from Warsaw, Poland - saved Bozenna De Cler-Swierczynska who grew up believing that the Polish woman was her real mother. In actuality Bozenna was Jewish and in June 1944 had been adopted by Zofia via a Warsaw woman called Mrs. Glowacka, to protect the child from Nazi persecution. From the moment Zofia took Bozenna under her wing, she hid her true identity, telling inquisitive family and friends that she had found the child abandoned in the forest among the bushes. Throughout the war and after, Zofia looked after Bozenna, protected her and reared her as though she was her own child. Bozenna, who only became aware that Zofia was not her biological mother many years after the war, will be at the ceremony and will receive the reward on Zofia’s behalf.
Jozef Karasek and his wife Anna from the Czech Republic saved Gyula Rapaport (now Gedalya Raf) and Adolph Spinka by hiding them in a hayloft and providing food and clothing for them despite obvious danger. After being sent from Okormezo to Auschwitz at age 13 in April 1944, Gyula Rapaport survived selection and in December 1944 was moved to Bergah, a small camp near Olsrtar in East Germany, until April 1945. With the Red Army advancing, the Germans decided to move the prisoners westward by sending the 1,500 prisoners on a Death March, which left only dozens alive. In Krecov, Czechoslovakia, the two boys escaped and arrived at a farm at the edge of the village. A farmer, Joseph Karasek, realizing that they were Jews, helped them hide on his farm and every morning brought them sandwiches and had them tend to the cows on the farm. The danger intensified as the village was often visited by German soldiers fleeing the Red Army advances, not to mention the presence of German refugees staying there. The boys were eventually liberated by the Red Army, but they stayed on with the Karasek family and helped them on the farm through that season until mid-May 1945.Gyula stayed in contact with the Krasek family and, after their death, with their son Miloslav Karasek who will accept the award on their behalf.
Franjo Puncuh from Yugoslavia - saved Lutek Meshorer, his mother, father and sister, and Nina, Igansi and Marian Kenigshtayn-Wajesnievski whom he knew before the war. The family transferred its assets – including a pen-making factory - to Franjo, who served as his country’s consul in Warsaw, at the outbreak of the war in order to prevent its confiscation. Franjo used these assets including the profits from the factory to save Jews. At times this money was used to bribe influential Germans and Poles, and on occasion to buy the freedom of people who had been arrested. Following the war, his wife Junka – who was Jewish - returned all that was left to the original owners.
Among the people Franjo saved were Bianka Kraszewski, who was hidden at safe houses provided to her by Franjo. She also spent 2 weeks hiding in Franjo’s villa in Konstancin and in his house in Warsaw. In the summer of 1942, Franjo helped Dr. Eva Lavendel and her daughter Wanda Lavendel escape the ghetto, and then found them hiding places on the “Aryan” side of the city. Later, shortly before the ghetto was liquidated, he helped his wife’s parents, Marta and Teofil Glocer and Dr. Lavendel’s parents escape and found hiding places for them.
In 1942-43, Puncuh financed the escape of Lutek Meshorer, his mother, Helena, and his father and sister from the Warsaw ghetto, and supported them both inside and outside the ghetto walls. Franjo helped many others, materially and otherwise including: Sabina and Wladek Glocer (relatives of Puncuh’s wife), Bianka (nee Rozenman) Kraszewski and her parents, Mrs. Bryl and her daughter Wanda Bryl Meller and Marla and Kazik Zylber and their son.
Franjo Puncuh died in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. His son Andrei Puncuh will receive the award on his behalf.
The event will take place on Thursday, April 4, 2005 at 11:30 in the Auditorium, and is open to the Press.