Although this is one of thousands of similar stories, some showing even more astonishing acts of bravery and divine intervention, this is significant because it is the first non-Jewish person to be honored at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with the Righteous Among the Nations medal. While some may have been honored and blessed in ways that we may never hear about, this particular honoring seems to serve as a public witness to His glory.
Christian Honored for Holocaust Rescue
By BRETT ZONGKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — When Masha Spivak’s parents and two siblings were killed in Ukraine during the Holocaust, she decided to go into hiding.
Two of her teachers heard about her family, took her in and helped her change her Jewish identity — at a huge risk to their own lives.
More than 60 years later, one of those teachers has become the first person to be honored at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with the Righteous Among the Nations medal, given to non-Jewish rescuers by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust.
The late Yevgenia Zamoroko-Lysenko was honored Thursday, but no living relatives could be found to accept an award for Klavdia Sopova, the second teacher. Both worked in the population registration department under police command while Germany occupied Ukraine.
Spivak, the girl whose life they probably saved, died in 2004.
“The righteous showed physical and moral courage when it was sorely lacking,” said Fred S. Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial council. “Happily today, we honor one of those rare heroes.”
Nikolay Zamoroko, of Ellicott City, Md., accepted the award for his mother. She died in 2001, shortly after the Israeli memorial began reviewing her story.
Zamoroko, 59, said his mother was modest and wise — and completely devoted to her students over a 50-year teaching career.
“It was no surprise for me that my mom, as I knew her, would do this — without any doubt,” he said. “She was an inspiration.”
The longtime physics teacher and widow was a Christian, said Zamoroko, who attributes many blessings in his life to the choices his mother made during the Holocaust.
“Your mom not only saved a life, she helped save the world,” said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.
More than a dozen Holocaust survivors from the Washington area came to honor Zamoroko-Lysenko in the museum’s Testimony Theater, which is built with stone from Jerusalem and usually shows films with survivors’ stories.
Nearly 22,000 Holocaust rescuers around the world have been awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal since 1963. A tree is planted for each person along a walkway near the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Three Americans have received the award, along with more than 2,100 Ukrainians.
Cardin and Israeli officials said they must recommit to ending ongoing genocides, such as that in Sudan’s Darfur region, to honor Zamoroko-Lysenko’s legacy.
“The heritage of the Holocaust is not only about the 6 million (killed). It is also the story of the few people who chose to stand against evil and live up to the highest level of human values,” said Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. “When we see evil, we can choose to be indifferent or to make a difference.”
Spivak eventually lost her job, and her rescuers encouraged her to enroll in forced labor to stay alive in Germany until the camp was liberated by American troops. She moved to Israel in 1948 and lost contact with her rescuers until 2000, when she learned of Zamoroko-Lysenko’s deteriorating health.