A Catholic ex-teacher who helped save 2000 Jewish children from the Nazis was honored by the Israeli Consulate here today and presented with the Medal of the Righteous People on behalf of Yad Vashem. Ambassador David Rivlin, Israeli Consul General, noted in his remarks that the silver medal bore the inscription, in Hebrew: “He who saves one soul is likened to he who saves the entire world.”
Mrs. Jeanne Daman-Scaglione, now of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after the ceremony that she had decided to help persecuted Jews in her native Belgium for “rational” and “moral” reasons because of the “political” situation and for “emotional” reasons because of her “compassion” for the Jews.
Her family had been “very anti-Fascist,” she said, and “my sense of responsibility became so strong that I would have felt guilty if I had not done what I did.” She added in this connection that she felt Pope Plus XII bore a heavy responsibility for not speaking out against the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. The former underground fight- er declared that although she is nominally a Catholic, she has “more empathy for the Jewish vision of life than for any other vision.”
Mrs. Daman-Scaglione, now 50, was in her early 20s when she helped Jewish children escape death. Her uncle was killed in Mauthausen, and her cousin was incarcerated in Ravensbrueck. Her husband, Prof. Aldo Scaglione, teaches European literature at the University of North Carolina. Mrs. Daman-Scaglione, now a member of the United Jewish Appeal’s Speakers’ Bureau, helped rehabilitate saved children after the war and often visits survivors–now adults and parents–in Israel.
In presenting the medal, Rivlin–“representing the entire State of Israel and indeed the entire Jewish people”–offered “heartfelt gratitude” for Mrs. Daman-Scaglione’s achievement of “so many great things in hours of darkness and stress for the Jewish people…victims of the most horrible cruelties in history.” She had “restored our faith” in the non-Jewish community, he said. The recipient responded with praise for the “courage and tenacity” of Jews in their effort to “rise above disaster and build anew in the noblest potential of the human spirit.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.