It has taken more than 75 years, but finally, an emeritus professor at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv) has been honored for rescuing Jews and fighting the Nazis as a member of the Jewish underground in France.
The B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust recently presented their joint Jewish Rescuers Citation in honor of 18 heroes at a virtual ceremony.
BIU Prof. Simon Raymond Schwarzfuchs was recommended for the honor by Dr. Tsilla Hershco, a member of the committee, historian, and expert on the Jewish resistance in France, as well as a senior research associate at BIU’ss Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow at the university’s Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research.
Schwarzfuchs was born in 1927 in Bischheim in the northeastern part of France. With the German occupation of Alsace and Lorraine, the Jews were expelled from the area, and his family moved to the city of Limoges in west central France. There he became active in numerous branches of the Jewish Resistance Movement from 1942 to 1944.
Before the June 1944 invasion, the Maquis groups of the Jewish Resistance supplied a hiding place for young Jews who escaped the Nazis and especially the Jewish Resistance members whom the Gestapo sought. According to Schwarzfuch’s testimony, members of the group used their connections in the area to find local hiding places for Jews, including children without parents. Schwarzfuchs also participated in an Allied parachute collection operation.
On August 19, 1944, Schwarzfuchs participated in an attack on a train in southern France that was loaded with German soldiers and weapons. He was with the Maquis forces who entered the city of Castres after the German garrison surrendered. Liberation of the city and its entire area made it possible for the Jews to emerge from hiding.
In 1948m Schwarzfuchs was ordained as a rabbi, later completing his doctoral studies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the US. In 1964, he immigrated to Israel with his family, teaching history at BIU. There he served, among other positions, as head of the department of jewish history and as dean of the Faculty of Humanities. He received the Legion of Honor Medal from the French authorities.
The Jewish Rescuers Citation was established in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem-B’nai B’rith International’s permanent presence in Jerusalem and its public affairs arm in Israel The committee decided to rectify the historical record regarding Jewish rescue and offer long overdue recognition to Jewish heroes. So far, 344 Jewish rescuers who risked their lives to save fellow Jews in Germany and Austria and across Nazi-allied and occupied Europe and North Africa have been recognized.
Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism, Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that Jews survived the Holocaust, or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven – and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews.