Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day

Thursday, May 01, 2014 1:39 PM

Commemorating Jewish Rescuers

KKL-JNF, in cooperation with the B’nai B’rith International, held the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day ceremony at Martyrs Forest at the plaza of the Scrolls of Fire memorial.  The ceremony commemorated the heroism of Jewish rescuers, who with great courage aided in the survival of Jews, endangering their own lives as well as those of their families. This year the ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Yonah Eckstein, who worked tirelessly to save Jews in Slovakia from the Nazis. The ceremony took place on April 28, 2014.

Left: Students and soldiers at the Yom Hashoah memorial ceremony.
Right: Tova Teitelbaum recieves a citation on behalf of her father Yonah Eckstein Z"L. With Slovakian ambassador Radovan Javocik, Alan Schneider of B'nai Brith & KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler.
Photos: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.

Many stories of heroism were told of the late Yonah Eckstein, who gave refuge to tens of Jews during WWII, fed the survivors, hosted orphans and the abandoned and facilitated their immigration to Israel.  Many notable persons honored the story of Yonah Eckstein and the “Jewish Rescuers Citation” was awarded during the ceremony to his family members and to additional heroes who also aided in the survival and rescue of their Jewish brethren.

On the day of the ceremony, “testimony corners” were set up around Martyrs Forest, where soldiers and high school students heard testimonies, given by Holocaust survivors, of their own personal story of coping with the Nazi oppressor and their survival.  KKL-JNF counselors conducted activities with high school students and visitors, which dealt with the essence of the planting of the Martyrs Forest and the Scrolls of Fire Memorial erected by the sculptor Nathan Rapoport.  The memorial was placed in the center of the forest on the mountain top, by the B’nai B’rith Organization in 1974.  The memorial commemorates the Jewish people from the Holocaust to the Rebirth; its shape is that of two scrolls expressing the existence of the Jewish people with “the Book”.  One scroll symbolizes the Holocaust and the other scroll symbolizes the Rebirth.  Memorial rooms are located in the space between the scrolls where a passage from the Bible is engraved in each room relating to the rebirth of the Jewish people.

Benny Teitelbaum speaks to soldiers about his grandfather OBM at a testimony corner in Martyrs Forest. Photo: Naama Hirsch

The lit memorial torch by the Scrolls of Fire. Photo: Naama Hirsch

At the ceremony, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler expressed the importance of Martyrs Forest in preserving the memory of the Jews who perished during the Holocaust: “We have many forests but I think that Martyrs Forest is unique and special in its own way.  We planted this forest over 50 years ago with the help of the B’nai B’rith Organization, in which we planted 6 million trees; 6 million green memorial candles in memory of the Holocaust victims, and we placed a memorial in memory of communities which no longer exist”.

The ceremony opened with the entrance of an honor guard made up of Border Patrol soldiers and the lighting of memorial torches. The torches were lit by family members of Yonah Eckstein, of blessed memory. Among them were his daughter Tova Teitelbaum and his grandson Benny Teitelbaum, who remarked during the ceremony: “From our point of view, today’s ceremony is the closure of a historical cycle; an expression of thanks to my grandfather Yonah Eckstein who risked his life throughout the years of the Holocaust, for a sole purpose: to save as many Jews as he could”.

Read more about Yonah Eckstein, the ceremony and the testimonies of other Holocaust survivors and rescuers.