JERUSALEM (EJP)---Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF), the largest Jewish environmental organisation in the world, and the B’nai B’rith World Center will hold Monday a ceremony in Jerusalem in honor of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, with a special mention for the heroism of Jews who saved their brethren during the Holocaust.
The ceremony will take place in Martyrs Forest in the Jerusalem Hills, will involve schoolchildren, students, soldiers, and Holocaust survivors and their families.
The Martyrs Forest is a joint KKL-JNF-B’nai B’rith project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust with 6 million trees planted in the Jerusalem Mountains.
The event will tell the life story and detail the miraculous activities of Otto Komoly, President of the Zionist Federation of Hungary and Chairman of the Aid and Rescue Committee.
During WWII, Komoly oversaw the rescue of 5,000 Jewish children through the establishment of 52 shelters that were staffed by members of the Zionist Youth Movement and protected by Red Cross sponsorship.
He also supported the legal - and later the clandestine – escape of Jews from Hungary to Palestine via Romania through which an estimated 15,000 Jews were saved.
Komoly also was the Jewish community’s principle interlocutor with moderate Hungarian leaders and with the neutral foreign legations that operated in Budapest.
On January 1, 1945 – barely two weeks before the liberation of Budapest by the Soviet troops – Komoly was kidnapped from his Red Cross offices by members of the fascist Arrow Cross regime and never heard from again.
He is assumed to have been murdered, along with thousands of other Jews, on the banks of the Danube.
Hungary’s Ambassador to Israel, Zoltan Szentgyorgyi, will be the honored guest at Monday’s Jerusalem ceremony and Otto Komoly will be represented by his granddaughter Orna Barnea.
Sunday night, the opening of the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, will see six Holocaust survivors lighting torches memorializing the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis.
The initial survivors chosen were Peretz Hochman, Otto Dov Pressburger, Dina Ostrover, Eliezer Eizenschmidt, Miriam Liptcher and Baruch Kopold. However, as Hochman died on Sunday, his widow, Sima, will represent him.
The ceremony will also feature speeches by Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the kindling of a memorial torch in the Holocaust memorial’s Warsaw Ghetto Square by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev.
On Monday there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem immediately following the nationwide memorial siren at 10 a.m.
Yad Vashem hopes to have collected the names of the overwhelming majority of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust within the next three years, the Holocaust Memorial Institute’s chief archivist told The Jerusalem Post.
He cited a wealth of documentation that has become available since archives in former Soviet bloc nations began to grant access to Israeli researchers.
“We hope in the coming three years to come close to six million,” Dr. Haim Gertner said.
“Millions of Jews were murdered, and most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, but unfortunately more than half of the names of the Jews who were murdered are still unknown. The Nazis didn’t only want to destroy the Jews but also to erase the ability to know what happened to them, » he added.
Gertner said that in 2004, Yad Vashem had approximately 2.7 million names. Now it has 4.2 million.
“We now know half of the names of the victims of Poland. Before we knew much less,” he explained. “We know today a third of the names from Russia and the Ukraine.”
The museum “has signed more than 40 agreements all over the former Soviet Union” over the past five or six years, he said, adding that it has begun intensive research efforts in “state archives, secret services archives and national archives” all over Eastern and Central Europe.