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Righteous Gentiles of Minsk Receive Israel's Highest Honor

Nine Righteous Gentiles received Israel's highest honor Monday for their courage in saving Jews, and President Peres recalled a childhood memory.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 6/22/2010, 3:11 PM / Last Update: 6/22/2010, 3:23 PM

Beit HaNassi

President Shimon Peres presented the thanks of the People of Israel to nine Righteous Gentiles from the Belarus city of Minsk on Monday. The award of the Righteous Among the Nations is the highest award that Israel can bestow on gentiles who demonstrated courage in the face of the Nazi Holocaust in order to save the lives of Jews.

Monday's meeting was an opportunity for the activists to see the human wealth they had created in terms of the spirit in the nation of Israel. The delegation, accompanied by the Ambassador of Belarus and his staff, also met with those who had survived the war as a result of their selfless acts – and their descendants.

The President was especially moved by the story of Holocaust survivor Rachel Shmailovic, who related her experience and that of her family, the Davidsons, while their savior, Anna Trofimova -- born Kanapatskaya -- sat beside her.

Shmailovic’s parents, were sheltered by Trofimova. Yisroel Davidson, head of the family, hid himself in a deep outdoor pit – so deep that the bloodhounds never detected his presence.

Kanapatskaya hosted the various members of the family in her own home for an entire year, supplying them with food and used clothing from the village.

In 1943, Shmailovic said the Nazis murdered 5,000 people in a mass slaughter in the heart of the ghetto. It was time to go, and the family fled, joining the partisans in the forest to fight the Nazis.

Peres warmly embraced Tropimova, and said that in the name of the Jewish People he would like to thank the Righteous Person who had saved so many Jewish lives

The President added that he had good memories of Belarus as a child – but that his beloved grandfather and other relatives, as well as nearly everyone from the village he led, were brutally murdered by the Nazis.

“You are proof that no matter what the circumstances, even under the fingernails of the Nazi monster, human decency can prevail,” Peres said.