More Righteous Among Nations
The following is a translation of an article which appeared in the
January 29, 2004 edition of Slobodna Dalmacija and provides information
concerning those Croats who were recently honored as Righteous Among
Nations. John Kraljic
HEROISM AMONG OUR NEIGHBORS
Zagreb. Courage is doing something that one is afraid of doing most.
Vera Oberiter was not even conscious of her courage when in the
beginning of 1944 she took in a Jewish little girl, Sylvia Suzana Knoll,
daughter of the friend of her husband Ludvik Valentincic. Both had
previously come under suspicion by the Ustashe rulers. While a student,
Vera had already declared herself to be opposed to Nazism, while Ludvik
cooperated in the secret collection of weapons for the Partisans. They
enrolled Sylvia in the nuns' school in Gundulic Street [in Zagreb],
while they told their neighbors that she was the child of an
acquaintance from Ozalj.
This continued until toward the end of the War when Ludvik was arrested
and hanged, while Vera Oberiter was taken to the women's prison on
Petrinjska Street. The Jewish girl hid with Vera's parents, where she
awaited the end of the war. At the end of 1945, Sylvia returned to
Vienna with her parents and lost contact with her saviors, until 2001
when the story about this case was published in a Jewish Austrian
publication. Since then they are in regular touch.
"I did not think that hiding a small Jewish girl from Ustashe
authorities was courageous, but something that had to be done," said
Vera Oberiter, a retired professor of English, while accepting the medal
of a Righteous Among Nations, which the Israeli state awards to
non-Jewish individuals who saved Jews from the Holocaust.
Vera Oberiter is one of a total of 98 Croats who have been proclaimed as
Righteous Among Nations, and she received a special honor on Tuesday
when she, with four other Croats, received the award at a special
ceremony honoring Holocaust Remembrance Day in the presence of President
Stipe Mesic. The stories concerning the saving of Jews during World War
II are shocking and show humane greatness and courage in gambling with
one's own life to save others. It is in accordance with a saying from
the Talmud that he who saves one life has saved the world.
Doctor Dane Vukovic was the director of the Hospital in Gospic., where
as part of the Maksimovic estate, a camp for Jews was organized. When
the camp was disbanded, many of the inmates were taken to the Hospital
which became a small island of safety. Dr. Dane Vukovic hated the
racial laws, and protected and hid the inmates, among them many Serb
children. In the shadow of the Hospital's courtyard he placed the
family of a rabbi from Krizevac, he transferred the husband of 18 year
old Eva Akerman-Krajanski into the Italian Zone and also saved the
pharmacist Elza Polak and her two-year old daughter. All safely saw the
end of the War, thanks to the now late Dane Vukovic, a Righteous Among
Doctors also played an important role in Bjelovar. Joza Jagodic, the
head of the surgery department at the Hospital, helped persecuted Jews,
while hiding a group of Jewish women in the hospital's basement. In
August 1942 he received a young Jewish man, Bozidar Erenfajda, one of 19
Jews from Pitomaca who had been imprisoned in Jasenovac. Erenfajda was
taken to the Hospital by a camp guard who was doing a favor to a young
girl, and the physicians' team, led by Dr. Jagodic, undertook a number
of operations on Erenfajda so that they could with more credibility hold
him in the Hospital and thus saving him from the camp. "My life was an
act," Erenfajda later wrote about his stay at the Hospital, where he
also saved himself by his knowledge of Christian prayers.
He remained in the Hospital for five and one-half months as he could not
leave without personal documents. At the end of January 1943 with the
assistance of a Serb he was transferred to liberated territory where he
remained until the end of the war. He now lives in Belgrade, and while
he was unable to attend the ceremony of awarding the title of Righteous
Among Nations to the late Dr. Joza Jagodic, he thanked his savoir as
well as the physicians' team at Bjelovar Hospital by a letter.
The family of attorney Dragutin Jakic lived in Prizren [in Kosovo], near
the Albanian border, and became friends with the Jewish family of Dr.
Jozef Tajtelbaum. In the summer of 1941 the Tajtelbaums were driven
from Prizren, the father ending up in a camp, while the mother and son
Raul were forced to live with the Jakic family for two years. In the
end, they went to Albania were Dr. Jozef worked as a camp physician
where they were arrested and deported to the concentration camp of
Bergen-Belsen. The father was killed, while the mother and son
survived. Upon their return to Prizren, they came into contact with the
Jakic family who during the entire time had held onto a suitcase with
their documents as well as a safe with gold which they kept hidden in a
well. Three years after the war Raul Tajtelbaum with his mother left
for Belgrade and later for Jerusalem. He continues to maintain contact
with Ana Jakic, the wife of attorney Dragutin, who today lives in
Olga Neumann-Rajsek saved 12-year old Dana Stochhamer from Nova Gradiska
whose entire family was killed or taken to Jasenovac. Dana's uncle,
Zlatko Neumann, at the time a prisoner of war in Germany, succeeded in
having his fiancée in Zagreb, Olga Rasjsek, take in Dana. Numerous
Jewish families passed through her apartment in Derencinova Street,
while young Dana was introduced to the neighbors as a relative. He
remained there for months with Olga, until one of the neighbors notified
the police that a Jewish boy was being hidden in the building. Dana was
taken to prison, while Olga Neumann took all steps to get him set free.
She succeeded only after intervening with Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac.
The boy was placed in a home for unwanted children where he remained
until the end of the war. Afterwards he moved to the United States,
completed his medical studies and today lives with his family in
Chicago. He is in constant contact with Olga Neumann who admits that it
never crossed her mind that her care for Dana could be deemed to be a
Of the 98 Croats among the Righteous Among Nations, only 21 remain
alive. Their names are carved in stone in the memorial area of Yad
Vashem in Jerusalem, the largest archive in the world concerning the
Holocaust, were for the past 40 years they have been collecting the
names of Jewish victims.
Father and grandfather of the CROWN readers Deletis (Vedran and Katarina) is one of them.