The Valiant and the Indifferent—Honoring Rescuers, Commemorating Kristallnacht

page ellen image

At a special community gathering, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center contrasted the acts of righteous “upstanders” with the indifference demonstrated during “Kristallnacht,” often referred to as the “Night of Shattered Glass.”  The commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of November 9, 1938 featured remarks from Ellen Glass, who experienced these events as a child in Saulheim, Germany.  She related how her father was arrested, and how that night convinced her family of the need to leave Germany.  Additionally, Consul General of Italy, the Honorable Alessandro Motta, reflected on the rescue of Jews in Italy.  

The night of November 9, 1938, defined by widespread orchestrated violence carried out by the Nazi regime against Jewish stores, businesses, homes and houses of worship in Germany and Austria, is considered by Holocaust historians as the “end of the beginning and beginning of the end.” 

Rick Hirschhaut, Museum Executive Director, stated: “We are humbled to join with the many who memorialize this sacred day in Holocaust history, while paying tribute to the righteous few who chose to risk their own safety to stand up for those in peril.”

At the Ferro Fountain of the Righteous, rescuers from Italy, Lithuania and Poland were honored with the dedication of new plaques. Two plaques reflect the heroic deeds of Italian rescuers, including Dr. Giovanni Palatucci,who headed the office for foreigners at the local police headquarters in Fiume (later Rijeka in Croatia).  Anti-Jewish policy caused many to flee Croatia, and impacted those who lived in other Yugoslav territories annexed to Italy.  Palatucci provided residence permits that his superior declined to issue, and also played a role in clandestinely directing Jewish refugees by sea to Bari. The Gestapo eventually arrested Palatucci.  He was condemned to death and deported to Dachau, where he died in February 1945.  

Consul General of Italy, the Honorable Alessandro Motta, reflected on the rescue of Jews in Italy and read a letter from a survivor that was rescued by Palatucci. Father Francesco Brondello was a young Italian priest who not only provided Jews with food and clothing, but also photographed Jews to forge identity papers.  He was arrested and imprisoned twice, but even under torture, Don Francesco did not disclose information about his contacts.  Among those who owe their lives to him are local Holocaust survivors and sisters, Chaya Roth and Gitta Fajerstein-Walchirk, who were both present at the ceremony and took part in a candle lighting to honor the memories of those killed during the November Pogrom.  

Benediktas Sindikaitis, Kazimiera Mozurkiene, and Stase Sindikaityte-Minelgiene represent three generations of one family who helped Jews from the onset of Nazi occupation of Lithuania in the summer of 1941.  They provided food, and at times, a hiding place.  Among those who benefited from their courage to care was Freda Karpul, a survivor who resides in Chicago.  After most of her family was murdered in Skaudvilé, Freda and one of her sisters were on the run, in and out of the ghetto.  Benediktas helped Freda, who had been injured, and hid her.  Kazimiera, the grandmother, would cook, and Stase, the daughter, brought the food to the hiding Jews.  Eventually, the Nazis arrested and murdered Benediktas.

Kazimierz Stanislaw Stawski and Wanda Antonina Stawski are two of the more than 6,000 Poles recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, for their role in aiding Jews in spite of the danger this presented to themselves and their family  They sheltered Miriam Korn, a young Jewish woman, in their apartment in Warsaw for approximately two years, 1942-1944.  She survived and went to Israel.  Children and grandchildren of the Stawskis were present for the ceremony.

Likely the last international institution of its kind built with the active participation of Holocaust survivors, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is the largest facility in the Midwest dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and to teaching current generations to fight hatred, indifference and genocide in today’s world. The Museum is located at 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie. The Museum is open Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Thursday evenings: 5:00- 8:00 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays: 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Connect with us

Sign up for our weekly newsletter featuring issues and events in the Jewish world.