I was preparing an upcoming blog, one that shines light on an unknown heroic Jew who saved hundreds of Jewish lives in the Rzeszow Ghetto, when it occurred to me I should contact the appropriate department at Yad Vashem. You know, the one where heroic Jewish rescuers of their brethren are held in honored remembrance. It seemed simple enough as I set out to scour the website in search of what I believed would be a prominent department. My initial confidence gave way to frustration as I found no such department, sub-department, or even cubbyhole office.
Convinced the fault was mine and I simply wasn’t looking in the right place, I emailed the Righteous Among Nations department, the one that honors non-Jewish rescuers, confident they could direct me to the appropriate site. In my email I explained that I was in possession of eyewitness testimony that a man named Gorelik, while masquerading as a brutal cop in the sham Jewish police force the Nazis created in all the ghettos of Poland (Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), was secretly saving Jewish lives … hundreds of them.
My response came several days later:
“Dear Mr. Kopiec,
I understand your request, but I am afraid that indeed our department and Yad Vashem in general give official recognition as Righteous only to non-Jews. I am afraid there is no organization that I am aware of that honors Jewish rescuers.
I do believe, however, that any testimony from the holocaust should be documented, and therefore suggest that you contact the Yad Vashem archives and deposit the testimonies that you have gathered there for future generations.”
The email response came unsigned, hopefully out of a sense of shame. My initial reaction was one of stunned incredulity, but disbelief soon gave way to something deeper and more troubling. What I feel now is sadness … sadness about what this horrible omission says about us as a people, and the way we view the Holocaust.
I for one, reject the notion there were no Jewish rescuers, no Jewish heroes. I know better. I know there was honor and heroism beyond measure in those miserable camps and, among our wretched and misbegotten brethren. All we need do, is allow the scales to fall from our eyes.
I plan to go forward with my blog honoring the memory of Gorelik, a man who gave his life for his people, and who properly deserves to be remembered as righteous among our nation.