NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, or JFR, supports non-Jews who risked their lives to care for and save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
On Wednesday, the organization coordinated an emotional representation of why it carries out its mission, when it reunited a woman with another woman whose life she helped to save, when the two of them were children seven decades ago.
“I couldn’t even dream that this moment would happen,” Mira Wexler, 75, told PIX11 News in an interview about an hour before the encounter, via an interpreter.
Wexler now lives in Brazil, where she and her mother, Chana, who passed away years ago, moved after World War II. Before and during the war, they lived in a mill on a farm in the village of Stara Huta, in what was then Poland, but has since become Ukraine.
When German troops invaded in 1941, they moved all of the Jews in the area to a ghetto for a year, including Wexler’s family. Nazi troops killed her father as part of a plan to wipe out the ghetto and its inhabitants, so Wexler and her mother and brother escaped to the farm where their mill house was located.
The farm owners, the Weglowski Family, hid the Wexlers in farm buildings and in nearby woods for more than two years.
“If you were living in Eastern Europe and you helped a Jew in any way,” said Stanlee Stahl, JFR executive vice president, in an interview, “whether it was shelter, or food, or forged documents, and you were caught, you as a Christian, and your family and the Jew or Jews you were helping were murdered.”
Her organization gives $1.4 million a year to help financially support people who saved Jewish lives during the war, people referred to as righteous gentiles. The Weglowski Family were righteous gentiles, and their daughter, Helena, who was in her preteen and early teen years during the Nazi occupation, risked her life on a frequent basis to venture into the woods to feed Mira and her mother. Mira was just three to five years old when she was in hiding.
When she and Helena Weglowski saw each other for the first time in seven decades, in a briefing room at JFK Airport, minutes after Weglowski had come through customs from Poland, smiles swept across both of their faces, followed immediately by joyous tears.