West Orange-based organization helps supports ‘Gentiles’ who rescued Jewish people during Holocaust
The executive vice president of a West Orange organization is on a mission to support those who aided Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Warsaw, Poland – 1941 - Catholic teenager Anna Stupnicka rescued a young Jewish girl from the Nazi-controlled ghetto by dressing her in a Catholic school uniform and then disguising her as their cousin until the end of the war four years later. Three years later in Hungary, teenager Katalin Kuron and her family sheltered a Jewish woman and her two children in an earthen bunker in their garden for seven months.
“These are living heroes. If you were caught helping a Jew in any way, shape or form – leaving an apple out as a work brigade left the ghetto, papers, getting someone out of the ghetto, hiding, providing food…you were killed” says Stanlee Stahl of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.
Today, those two rescuers, who are now in their 90s, receive $200 a month from the West Orange-based organization. It is the only organization in the world dedicated to supporting the “righteous Gentiles” – everyday people whose actions saved Jews from Nazi forces.
“The Jewish people have a double memory. Of horrible evil. The murder of 6 million. The murder of men, women and children for no other reason than they were born Jewish…but also a memory of blessed righteousness, of non-Jews who said, ‘Not on my watch,’” Stahl says.
The organization is funded entirely by donations and started to support eight rescuers in the 1980s. That number grew to 1,800 people, each receiving a monthly stipend, a Christmas check, emergency assistance and funeral grants. But as time marched on, the number dwindled down to about 200.
What will be left when they are gone is their stories. The JFR is working to keep those stories alive in documentaries and on the organization's website, which contains story after story of people who risked their own lives to save others.
Last year, the JFR sent $1 million to rescuers in 17 countries.