By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – It’s the Holocaust rescue story that often goes untold—Jews who put their lives on the line to save their fellow Jews.
Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner (1912-1991), a Jew who saved 300 children from the Druskininkai Soviet Pioneers Camp during Operation Barbarossa, was honored by B’nai B’rith World Center and the Jewish National Fund at their 14th annual Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Thursday at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza in Jerusalem.
“We are unique in the sense that we are the only ceremony that recognizes Jewish rescuers on an annual basis,” said B’nai B’rith Director Alan Schneider in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It’s not an area of strong academic research, though that is something we would like to encourage.”
Born in Belorussia, Pevzner served as director of the Polish troupe at the Druskininkai camp in Lithuania. He brought the 300 children—150 of whom were Jewish—by train to the Soviet Far East while under German aerial attack. Pevzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic, where he cared for them through extreme weather conditions until the end of the war.
Pevzner was represented by his son, Dr. Mark Pevzner, and grandson, Boris Pevzner.
According to Schneider, while commemorations in previous years have included rescuers from Germany, France, Slovakia, and Eastern Europe, this is the first year the organization is recognizing a Russian.
“The organizers seek to right the historical record by giving due recognition through the ceremony and citation to Shmuil Pevzner for rescuing these vulnerable children, some of whom were as young as seven,” Schneider said. “We salute his dedication to the children and support for them through emotional and physical hardships to become upstanding youngsters and adults.”
Schneider explained that obtaining first-hand testimony is increasingly difficult as the survivor population ages.
“As these annual events take place, people hear about it and they get in touch with us to have their rescuer recognized, which is what happened this year. We are constantly active on our Facebook page and many people write to us,” Schneider said.