Holocaust survivors, rescuers reunite
27 February 2007, Warsaw (dpa) - Holocaust survivors and Poles who risked their lives to save them from Nazi genocide during the Second World War met in an emotional reunion in Warsaw Tuesday. More than 140 Jewish survivors and Poles recognised by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations of the World for saving Jews during the Holocaust met for a luncheon in the gymnasium of Warsaw's Lauder Morasha Jewish elementary school. Among them were Holocaust survivor Miriam Schmetterling, 79 and her Polish rescuer Joz
27 February 2007
Warsaw (dpa) - Holocaust survivors and Poles who risked their lives to save them from Nazi genocide during the Second World War met in an emotional reunion in Warsaw Tuesday.
More than 140 Jewish survivors and Poles recognised by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations of the World for saving Jews during the Holocaust met for a luncheon in the gymnasium of Warsaw's Lauder Morasha Jewish elementary school.
Among them were Holocaust survivor Miriam Schmetterling, 79 and her Polish rescuer Jozefa Tracz-Czekaj, 83.
Tears welled up in the women's eyes as they embraced for first time in more than 60 years.
"They (Tracz-Czekaj and her family) were the real heroes of that war," Schmetterling told reporters. "They risked their lives and their families lives to save us - I thank them, my children thank them." After the war Schmetterling settled in Wiesbaden, Germany.
"It was friendship and caring for other human beings that was our motivation - We'd do it again," Tracz-Czekaj said.
Her family risked their lives to hide the Schmetterling and another Jewish family in the attic of their house for nearly a year. The danger of being found out was all the more grave as the house was across the street from a Nazi police station.
Organised by the Jewish Claims Conference (JCC) the emotional event kicked-off an annual meeting of the organisation.
This year, it is being held in the Polish capital Warsaw this year in conjunction with talks with the Polish government expected to focus on the restitution of Jewish communal and private property nationalised by Poland's communist regime after the end of the Second World War.
"We just want a fair, just and quick solution," JCC Executive Vice Director Gideon Taylor told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa, but declined to provide further details on the talks with Polish officials planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It's not about money, it's about honour and respect," Taylor said, explaining the JCC's mission to provide aid to elderly, often poor, Holocaust survivors as well as rescuers of Jews.
According to the Polish Treasury, the state acquired about 40 billion zloty (13.5 billion dollars) worth of private property previously owned by ethnic Jews and Poles though nationalisations carried out by the post-WWII communist regime.
It has agreed to offer 15 per cent of the value of lost properties as restitution to former owners.
The funds are to come from the privatisation of state assets, but the process of selling-off state industry has all but ground to a halt under the conservative government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
A Polish association representing expropriated property-owners and their heirs pegs the global value of properties lost under communism at some 60-70 billion zloty (20-23.7 billion dollars) and believe Jewish property accounted for approximately 17 per cent of the sum.
Since 1951 the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs.
Payments to Holocaust survivors from Claims Conference funds tally at more than 60 billion dollars, according to the organisation's website.
The JCC has also paid out approximately 6.25 million dollars since 1963 to Holocaust-era rescuers of Jews living in need, according to a JCC statement.
Subject: German news