Wednesday, December 03, 2008

B92: Israel honors Serbs for WW2 bravery

BELGRADE -- Israel's Ambassador to Serbia has presented Righteous among the Nations awards to the children and grandchildren of Serbs who helped Jews during World War II.

The award is the highest honor given by the state of Israel to non-Jews around the world over the last 55 years, and the medals were awarded today to the relatives of Borivoj and Grozdan Bondžić, Ljubica Mandušić-Gazikalović and Jelica Ranković.

The awards are given to people who helped save and protect Jews during the Holocaust in occupied Serbia, risking the safety of their families and their own lives.

German racial laws were very rigorous and anyone discovered offering refuge to Jews faced extreme punishment.

“Unfortunately, even today, hate, intolerance, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism still exist. They have not disappeared from our society, as if history has not taught us anything. What we lack are people who will stand up to the phenomenon not only behind closed doors, but publicly, calling the problem what it is and exposing its real, dangerous face,” Ambassador Arthur Koll said.

“With great respect, we are fulfilling our duty today to confer medals to the children and grandchildren of the righteous Borivoj and Grozdan Bondžić, Ljubica Mandušić-Gazikalović and Jelica Ranković. Their courage and selflessness will stay in our memories forever,” Koll said.

The Bodžić, Knežević and Zdravković families helped the Dajč family, which had to leave their jobs and then homes in Aleksandrovac due to German race laws.

Julija Dajč hid with the Bodžić family for three years, and gave birth to her son in the family home. Both now live in Israel.

Ljubica Mandušić-Gazikalović and Jelica Ranković saved Josef Levi and his family, who later fled to Albania.

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