Slovaks honoured for wartime heroism

FOURTEEN more people were added to the list of 500 Slovaks who have been awarded the title ‘Righteous among the Nations’ on this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

FOURTEEN more people were added to the list of 500 Slovaks who have been awarded the title ‘Righteous among the Nations’ on this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

January 27, the date in 1945 when the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp was liberated, was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations. Every year on this day, the State of Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem award the Righteous among the Nations title to non-Jewish people who risked their life, freedom and safety in order to rescue one or more Jews from the threat of death or deportation without exacting monetary compensation or other rewards.

The Slovaks awarded in memoriam the title Righteous among the Nations in 2010 were: Vladimír and Jolana Adamík, Jozef and Eva Borovský, Tomáš and Alžbeta-Magda Dudášek, Pavel and Anna Krahulec, Jozef Kurbel, Ján and Mária Porubän, Sister Agáta Matúšková, and Michal and Barbora Zelenay.

Various deeds of help and courage are contained in the list of names. For instance, the Protestant priest Jozef Borovský, together with his wife Eva, helped Jews from Ukraine to get through the Carpathian mountains to Hungary, which was safer for Jews than Slovakia at that time. After the war Borovský was persecuted by the communist regime and was even imprisoned and sent to a forced labour camp; he never spoke about the help he gave Jews for fear of reprisals by the regime. His relatives only learned about his actions after his death, the SITA newswire reported.

Another man, Jozef Korbel, helped his Jewish neighbour build an emergency hiding place for his family in the mountains around Prievidza in 1944. It was later used by many families of Jews. He never disclosed the secret, even during his cruel interrogation by an SS commando in which he was tortured, forced him from his home and his house burnt down.

The names of those receiving the award this year will be added to those of previous recipients on the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous in Yad Vashem. People recognised as Righteous among the Nations are also awarded a specially minted medal bearing their name and a certificate of honour. The relatives of the 14 Slovaks awarded the honour this year accepted them from the ambassador of Israel to Slovakia, Zeev Boker, and Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico attended the awards ceremony. In his speech to an audience consisting mainly of relatives of the recipients as well as survivors of the Holocaust he stressed the importance of tolerance and avoiding stereotypes. He also pointed to what he called the spread of neo-fascism in central Europe, SITA reported.

Ambassador Boker in his speech said he appreciated the Slovak government’s decision to build an educational centre and Holocaust museum on the site of a former labour camp in Sereď.

Ayalon said the Holocaust was an attack on the human soul and during the Holocaust there was a danger that the human race would turn into animals and the world would turn into a jungle. He added that this did not happen thanks to courageous people such as those carrying the title of the Righteous among the Nations, SITA wrote.

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