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Medal of Righteousness Awarded to Three Women

Three women were awarded the Medal of Righteousness for risking their lives and the lives of their families to help Jews during the Holocaust in Europe.

The awards, given by the government of Israel to “outstanding individuals” who are not Jewish, were presented by Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ambassador Naphtali Lavie, himself a Holocaust survivor, in a simple but emotional ceremony last Thursday at the Israeli Consulate. Some of the Jews who were saved by the awardees were present at the ceremony.

The recipients of the awards were Jean Berger of Yonkers, N.Y., who saved Jews in the Ukraine; Sophia Ebro-Prokesh of Paterson, N.J., who saved Jews in Poland; and Konstanca Brasiniene of Lithuania, who died in 1970, who was represented by her daughter, Dr. Nicola Brazenas, of Sparkvil N.Y.

One of those attending the ceremony was Alex Grimgauz from Long Island, who was saved from the Nazis when he was a 10-year-old boy by Brasiniene in the Lithuanian town of Kovno. At great risk to her life she kept him and another Jewish girl in her home pretending they were her own children.

Grimgauz stayed in her home, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, from October 1943 to August 1944, while his parents where in a concentration camp. His mother perished. His father survived and they came to America at the end of the war.

At the ceremony, the 51-year-old Grimgauz, who brought with him one of his three teen-age sons, was overwhelmed by emotions and tears. He said about the woman who saved his life, “My mother had given birth to me and she gave me life again.”

As part of the awards, trees will be planted in honor of the recipients in the Alley of the Righteous Gentiles in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

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