Cracow, February 2010
1.30 minute read/295 words
Martin’s talk at the Jagiellonian went well; it can be a surprise for an audience to learn a new aspect of their history.
In thanking Martin, his host remarked also how refreshing it was that Martin, unlike many of their non-Polish lecturers, knew how to pronounce Hrubieszow, a town just inside the Polish border near what is now Ukraine. Actually, Martin not only knew it and its historical significance, he had been there in 1980. (https://www.martingilbert.com/sir-martins-travels/ Scroll down to his Poland 1980 diary.)
A young man came up to me afterward and introduced himself as Jakub Szeliga. The name sounded familiar to me. Between 2000 and 2005 I had created a series of books based on the extracts of published Holocaust survivor memoirs, Holocaust Memoir Digest. One memoir I included was that of Bertha Ferderber-Salz, And the Sun Kept Shining …, a survivor, originally from Cracow, who I had met in 1979. The Ferderbers had been helped during the Holocaust by a teacher, Sigmund Szeliga. And here was his grandson who knew about my work!
Though Bertha’s family and Jakub tried to have Sigmund Szeliga recognised by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations for having risked his life to save Jews, there was no documentation of his brave efforts. Difficult as it was at the time to have physical – and what would have been dangerous and incriminating – evidence of efforts to save Jews, Yad Vashem’s reputation and the quality of the designation is dependent on due diligence being done and valid proof of assistance.
It was a thrill for me to meet Jakub and be in the place that bore the weight of history on so many different levels.
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