Dr. Samuel Pisar, world renowned international lawyer, best-selling author, and a Holocaust survivor, and Valerie Crowley, sister of the late William Ellington — a Black G.I. who saved Pisar’s life during World War II — came together for the first time during an emotional ceremony at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
It was only through an incredible series of events, which special guest Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley termed ” a miracle,” that Crowley learned the identity of the young man her brother had disobeyed orders and risked court martial to save.
Pisar, a Paris resident, who as chief counsel for the International Olympic Committee, was in Los Angeles for the 23rd Olympiad, has written in his widely-acclaimed autobiographical work, “Of Blood and Hope,” how as a teenager in the final days of World War II, he escaped from the Dachau concentration camp and was rescued by a Black American soldier as he fled his Nazi pursuers.
Crowley, who saw Pisar and heard the rescue story during a television interview in 1983, recognized the story as that told to her by her brother prior to his death, and set about looking for Pisar. Through subsequent contact with the Wiesenthal Center, Crowley ultimately was able to contact Pisar.
Wiesenthal Center dean Rabbi Marvin Hier called the event a “celebration of hope and life” and reiterated the hope that this event and knowledge of the late Bill Ellington’s actions would help mend ill feelings which have recently grown between the Black and Jewish communities.
AN EXAMPLE OF MAN’S HUMANITY
Bradley called the courageous deed of Ellington “an example of the fundamental and basic principle of man’s humanity which bubbles to the surface no matter how hard we try to suppress it. This story is of one man who, without question, rescued another in need, is an example for young people today to emulate so that some day we will find a world of peace without hatred, bigotry and discrimination.”
Wiesenthal Center trustee William Belzberg joined Bradley in presenting the Center’s scroll of honor to Crowley, a posthumous tribute to the brave deeds of her late brother. In accepting the scroll, Crowley spoke of her brother and his brave deeds that day in the spring of 1945.
“His daring disposition inspired him (Ellington) to go against his commanding officer as the U.S. Army rumbled across forests and fields in pursuit of the enemy of all times, Hitler’s henchmen. Had Bill obeyed the orders of his superior officer, he most certainly would have run over a frightened, pathetic figure of a boy who ran out with upraised arms straight into the path of the American armada ….
“The world would have been deprived of a boy (Samuel Pisar) who grew up from the shadow of the death camps to tell how it was in those dark days in Europe, and one who is doing his utmost to help cure the ills of the world, to bring about peace among nations and above all, understanding.”
Pisar captivated those witnessing the ceremony as he recounted “that moment where I was pulled by a tall, Black G.I. into the hatch of freedom forever … so that I may work toward a better world in which such things (the Holocaust) would never happen again.”
Crowley concluded her remarks by conveying the important message for all to learn: “To myself say, yes Valerie, miracles do happen. And to Dr. Pisar I say, may you live a long and happy life and keep the memory of the Holocaust ever before the world. For if it happened once, it can happen again.”
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.