SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – An Australian woman is being honored posthumously by Yad Vashem for saving the life of a Jewish doctor during the Holocaust.
Irena Szumska-Ingram saved Bernard Hellreich from near certain death in the Polish town of Tarnow. The 20-year-old hid Bernard in her tiny apartment and then moved him to another secure home away from the clutches of the Nazis when the danger increased.
The pair married after the war and settled in Australia in 1948, raising two children, Christopher and Vivienne. They will receive the award on their mother’s behalf from the Israeli Embassy at a ceremony Wednesday in Sydney that will be attended by New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally.
Irena had stopped Bernard from nominating her for the award, but four years after her death in 2003, he defied her wishes and signed the nomination forms for Irena to be considered by Yad Vashem. Bernard died five days later.
“The award recognizes the imperative of speaking out in the face of injustice,” New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said in a statement. “There are 26,000 trees in the Garden of the Righteous, each one honoring an individual who had that courage during the Holocaust. We are proud that another Australian name will be added to that garden."
As Bernard wrote about Irena in his book, "Unfinished Symphony," “Without her, I would have been destroyed, crushed, forgotten – another abstract, anonymous addition to the list of millions of victims of the Holocaust.”