ZAGREB, Croatia (Jan. 30)
A man who hid a Jewish woman in Croatia during World War II was among 10 people honored this week as Righteous Gentiles.
When World War II began, Jaksha Kalogjera rescued his friend Lili Moravetz, a Viennese Jew who had moved to Zagreb at the beginning of the war. Kalogjera brought Moravetz to Split, and hid her in his sister’s house.
Kalogjera, now 92, was honored Tuesday in a ceremony held at a secondary school here as part of a program designed to introduce Holocaust education into Croatian schools.
“The idea was to make the pupils of this school not just viewers, but active participants in this particular event,” Natasha Jovicich, from Croatia’s Ministry of Education, told JTA.
Students at the school were encouraged to do research about the stories of the 10 Righteous Gentiles. The students wrote stories about each of the 10 honored, seven of whom were honored posthumously.
The stories were published in the school newspaper, and given to the families of the honorees. The ceremony itself was streamed over the Internet.
Last year, Jovicich came under fire when she suggested that Holocaust education needed to be improved in the nation’s schools.
“In Croatia, this is a very belated confrontation with history,” Avi Beker, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress said at the ceremony. Still, he said, “Let us never forget the heroism of those people” who risked “their lives to help those that were persecuted.”
Approximately 80 Croatian citizens have been presented Yad Vashem medals as Righteous of the Nations. Some 30,000 Croatian Jews died in the Holocaust, when the country was ruled by a Nazi puppet regime.
Some 2,000 Jews live in Croatia today.
“Young people should know the whole truth about what happened in the past and in World War II, to know that there were people because of whose deeds we must be ashamed,” said Croatian President Stipe Mesic, who attended the ceremony. “But there have also been people of whom we can be proud.”