An 85-year-old woman who helped save 1,200 Jews from their deaths in Poland during World War II has been honored here by Israel’s ambassador to Argentina.
At a recognition ceremony last week attended by hundreds of people at the Marc Chagall Cultural Center, Itzhak Aviron, the recently appointed Israeli ambassador, presented a medal in the name of Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute to Emilie Schindler for her courageous actions during the war.
“Thank you for remembering me. I did what I could,” said the fragile Schindler, tears welling in her eyes when she received the medal.
Schindler, a German Catholic who has been living in Argentina since 1949, was honored here for her courage during World War II when, together with her late husband, Oskar, she managed to save 1,200 Jews from almost certain death in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The Schindlers’ heroism is the subject of a soon-to-be-released movie, “Schindler’s List,” directed by Steven Spielberg.
During the war, the couple had operated a metal factory in Krakow, Poland, at which Jews recruited from concentration camps served as a cheap source of labor.
After witnessing Nazi executions of Jewish children, the Schindlers devoted themselves to rescuing Jews from deportation and death in Auschwitz.
Toward the end of the war, when the German authorities ordered the Schindlers out of Krakow because it was about to fall to the Russians, the couple made a list of 1,200 Jews whom they described as indispensable workers and took them along when the plant was relocated out of harm’s way.
Following the war, the couple settled in Argentina in 1949, with the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Emilie Schindler still lives 40 miles from Buenos Aires in the house purchased for her by the B’nai B’rith in 1965, eight years after her husband’s death.
Moshe Beisky, a former Israeli Supreme Court judge, sent a moving statement that was read during the recognition ceremony. “I’m sorry I can’t be in Buenos Aires to offer my testimony,” wrote Beisky. “I’m one of those who survived thanks to the salvation endeavors of the Schindlers.
“To date I preserve the image of Mrs. Schindler, who day after day carried heavy pots full of potage cooked by herself with goods obtained by her at risk in the black market,” he wrote. “She looked after and pampered many living skeletons weighing 35 kilos (77 pounds) each.
“A Talmud sentence engraved in Emilie’s medal reads: ‘Saving one human life is like saving the whole world,’ ” Beisky noted. “The Schindlers saved 1,200 souls. May they receive the recognition of Yad Vashem, the Jewish people and all those they saved.”