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Rescue during the Holocaust highlighted in
two Exhibits held at UNHQ for
International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The selfless acts of individuals who risked everything to save others during the Holocaust were highlighted in two exhibitions held at United Nations Headquarters as part of a week-long schedule of events to mark the 27 January International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The exhibits, organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Poland to the United Nations, The Polish History Museum, and the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, opened on 22 January in the Visitor’s Lobby with over 200 people in attendance.

The joint exhibit opening was hosted by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal. Distinguished speakers included Ambassador Ryszard Sarkowicz of Poland, Ms. Ewa Wierzyńska of the Polish History Museum, Mr. Harvey Schulweis, Chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and Ms. Ursula Korn-Selig, a Holocaust survivor and rescuee.

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information,

Jan Karski, the Polish hero who worked underground to learn as much as possible about the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews, was featured in the exhibit “The World Knew, Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity”, curated by the Polish History Museum.

“Jan Karsky was one of the undeniable heroes of the 20th century”, Ambassador Sarkowicz told participants. “He was not merely a Polish hero, but a hero for humanity”. Dispatched by the Polish underground to inform the Allies what was happening to the Jews of Europe at the hands of the Nazi's and their collaborators, he made several appeals for the Allies to intervene to stop it. Karski’s extraordinary legacy was recognized by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012, when he was decorated posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

The opening of the exhibit at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Mark Garten

The exhibit “Whoever Saves a Single Life… Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust” featured dozens of ordinary citizens who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The exhibit was presented by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization dedicated to financially supporting more than 750 non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

“These individuals not only had the courage to care, but the courage to act”, said Mr. Schulweis in his remarks to the event. “They risked their lives in order to save strangers. The punishment, if caught, was instant death.”

Ms. Ursula Korn-Selig, one of the rescuees featured in the exhibit, attended the opening of the exhibits and told participants about the extraordinary help her family received from Monsignor Beniamino Schivo upon relocating to Città di Castello in Italy. She spoke movingly about how Monsignor Schivo provided shelter, clothing and food, and made arrangements for her to continue her schooling. With the beginning of the German occupation in Italy, Monsignor Schivo moved the family from place to place to protect them.

Ursula Korn-Selig speaks at the opening of the exhibit at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Mark Garten

“He was more to me than a priest”, said Ms. Korn-Selig. “He was a real father and I am grateful to him that I am here today. My family immigrated to the United States after the war and with what little money I earned, I went back to Italy to visit Monsignor Schivo." The Monsignor died on 30 January 2012 at the age of 101. In 1986, he was bestowed the title of “The Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.

The opening of the exhibit at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Mark Garten