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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 16:12 GMT
Poles who saved Jews are honoured
Holocaust survivor Miriam Schmetterling (left) embraces Jozefa Czekaj-Tracz, who saved her life
Mrs Schmetterling (left) had not seen Mrs Czekaj-Tracz for 60 years
More than 60 Poles who saved Jews during the Second World War have been honoured by Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders.

Poland's three million strong Jewish community was almost completely wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust.

But a number were saved through the bravery of Poles who risked their lives to hide them.

The gathering at a Jewish school in Warsaw was one of the largest in many years.

Miriam Schmetterling, 82, was one of those saved. She attended the gathering.

She met Jozefa Czekaj-Tracz, who was 15 when her family hid Miriam and five other relatives from the Nazis.

They hid in the attic of the Czekaj family's house near Lviv, now in Ukraine, for 10 months in 1941.

Food for the Schmetterlings was winched up on pulleys hidden in the chimney, and Jozefa played the piano whenever visitors arrived, to mask any sounds from the attic.

"I nearly cried. It is very, very emotional for me to be here because they saved my life," said Mrs Schmetterling.

"We got our food and everything through the chimney. They even sent us books to read. They are an example for humanity. There's always hope if there are people like that."

Given the risks, most Poles turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews during the war. Some even informed on them, the BBC's Warsaw correspondent Adam Easton says.

The Poles at the reunion are recipients of the award known as the Righteous Among the Nations. It is given by the Holocaust memorial agency in Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.

Poland has nearly 6,000 recipients - more than any other nation.

Before the war Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. But 90% of that community was killed in the Holocaust.




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27 Jan 07 |  Europe

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