The Russian Schindlers who saved Jews from the Holocaust
HistoryJAN 26, 2019BORIS EGOROVGalina Sankó / TASSThis trio won from Israel the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations, granted to people who saved Jews during World War II.
Baptized as Elizaveta at her birth, Maria Skobtsova had a hard but extraordinary life. He was a person of a thousand facets: writer, poet, political figure and columnist.
Although she did not support the Bolshevik Revolution, she accepted the position of deputy mayor of the city of Anapa, in southern Russia. Maria thought that this way she could protect the simple people from possible oppression by the Bolsheviks. After leaving office, she led a clandestine fight against the Bolshevik government.
With no prospects in her own country, she emigrated to Paris in 1924. There, she began a path of religious devotion and left behind the name Elizaveta, adopting that of Maria. In the French capital, she found herself surrounded by the horrors of the Holocaust.
During the Nazi occupation of France, Maria opened a house in Paris for refugees and those in need of help. She endeavored to hide the Jews and issued them certificates of baptism that often helped to save their lives.
In 1943, she was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. There, she continued to help, support and talk to people, despite their differing political opinions and religious beliefs.
These discussions were a way out of our hell. They helped us regain the psychological strength we had lost and ignited a flame of thoughts that burned under the pressure of so many horrors, prisoner Jacqueline Piery recalled.Maria Skobtsova was murdered in the gas chambers in 1945, a week before Soviet troops liberated the concentration camp where she was.
In 1985, Me Maria received the honorary title of Justa among the Nations. She was canonized 19 years later as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Nikolai Kiseliv had little time to fight as a regular soldier during World War II. In the first months of conflict, their division was surrounded. Even so, Kiseliv managed to escape and joined the partisan unit known as Avenguer, which had been operating in Belarus.
In the summer of 1942, Nikolai received an impossible order to carry out: to direct a group of 270 Jews, mostly women, children and the elderly, for almost 1,500 kilometers to the east, up to the Soviet lines. They were all that remained in the village of Dolgunovo, where, before the war, there were 5,000 Jews.
Accompanied by only six armed partisans, Kiseliv began his exhaustive march through woods and impassable marshes, avoiding German positions and enemy ambushes, suffering from hunger and fatigue.
As the front line approached, the path became more dangerous. Berta, a 3-year-old girl, did not stop crying and there was a high risk that she would attract the enemy's attention. The girl's parents were so desperate that they thought of drowning her to save the rest of the group. Nikolai saved Berta when he took her in his arms and managed to calm her down.
In October 1942, after a three-month hike, the group, exhausted, reached the Soviet troops. Of the 270 people who left the woods near Dolgunovo in August, 218 were saved thanks to Nikolai Kisseliv.
Nikolai himself saw the end of the war and died only in 1974. After 31 years of the feat, he was titled as Just Among Nations. In addition, more than 3,000 descendants of the 270 Jews who accompanied him continue to honor his memory and call him Our Moses.
In 1942, Fidor Mikhailitchenko, 15 years old and from Rostov no Don, was sent to Germany to carry out forced labor. There, he began to spread anti-Nazi propaganda, which is why he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Two years later, a seven-year-old Polish Jewish boy appeared in the camp. Absolutely helpless, Irtchik was condemned to a certain death, if not for the protection of Fidor.
Fidor Mikhailitchenko took Irtchik under his tutelage. He protected the boy, stole potatoes from the kitchen to feed him and sewed him clothes using those of other dead prisoners as a base.
Later, the boy became the Grand Rabbi Ashkenazi of Israel and the Grand Rabbi of Tel Aviv. He never forgot his savior and spent his life trying to find him. But Yisrael Meir Lau (Irtchik) spotted Fidor only a few years after his death in 1993.
In 2009, Fidor Mikhailitchenko was entitled Justo entre Naes. Lau attended the ceremony and said to Fidor's two daughters: Now, his name belongs not only to us, but to all of humanity.