Friday, June 27, 2008

How Dare They!

Galicia. This is where my father is from. And my father-in-law. It is located in the Ukraine. This is an area that was particularly anti Semitic – as were many other portions of Europe. During the holocaust this hatred came out with a vengeance. Ukrainians took pleasure in persecuting ‘the Christ killers’ in their midst then – giving them up to the Nazi occupiers whenever they could with glee! But there were exceptions.

Some Ukrainians actually had souls and rose to the occasion when Jews needed them most. They did not stand by and do nothing as they watched people being dragged to their death. They were the righteous gentiles who at their own personal risk saved many Jews - my father and father-in-law among them. They both survived because of righteous gentiles who risked their lives and those of their families to save them from certain death. Incredible stories in each case.

Recently there has been a spate of revelations about such people who have heretofore remained very private – uninterested in publicity or fanfare. They did not see anything heroic about what they did. They felt it was simply their obligations as human beings to act. One such hero that has recently come to light is the amazing Irena Sendler, may she rest in peace.

Personal consequences did not affect their decisions either. That’s why they are heros. Heros of the holocaust. I’m not sure I could ever measure up to them. And that’s why an article in YNet about Ukrainian gentiles - the Senevich family - is so disturbing. Here are the pertinent excerpts:

Now 83 years of age, Pieter still vividly remembers being an eye-witness to the execution of a Jewish family Nazis found hiding with his neighbors back in Ukraine. The neighbors too were murdered for aiding the Jews.

Mere days later, two Jewish boys – David and Buszia Schmeigel – entered the Senevich family’s backyard. Their mother, who had been deported to the camps, was able to allow the boys to escape, telling them they must run and try to immigrate to Palestine, which was under British mandate at the time.

The Senevich family did not hesitate; they risked their lives and hid the two children in their home. After the war, the boys made it to Israel and currently reside in Beersheba.

In 1993, the Israeli consul in Ukraine managed to locate and reconnect the two families, which resulted in Yad Vashem granting Pieter the title of 'Righteous Among the Nations' – bestowed on non-Jewish men and women of all religions who helped saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

'We thought this was our home'

Five years ago Pieter and his wife Olga immigrated to Israel with their 29-year-old daughter Rosa. They settled in Beersheba, wishing to live close to David and Buszia.

But the Senevich family was dealt a devastating blow after Rosa's visa expired and the Ministry of the Interior informed her she must leave.

I am the last one to criticize the Israeli government. I tend to bend over backwards to be give them the benefit of the doubt. But not this time. This insults me. It insults all holocaust survivors and their families. It insults the memory of all holocaust victims who might have been saved - had their been more people like the Seneviches. And it should insult every Jew and decent human being on the face of the earth!

What kind of Jewish government is it that treats heroes of the holocaust so shabbily?! This is a Chilul HaShem and should not be tolerated.

I am not a believer in petitions, especially eletronic ones that are found on the Internet. I have never signed a single one. I don’t think they do any good. Nonetheless there is one individual by the name of Moshe Broder who has created one for this purpose. I signed it. I otherwise feel helpless in this case and feel the need to at least try and do something, even if it is only symbolic. I therefore include his petition here and urge everyone to do the same. I can't believe this outrage will stand - unless good people stand by and do nothing.