Hungarian Shoah hero honoured

Israel will mark Yom Hashoah on Sunday night and Monday, with special events across the country, and a ceremony to commemorate a Hungarian hero. The B’nai B’rith World Centre in Jerusalem and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) hold the only event in Israel dedicated to the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews. This year it will pay special tribute to the remarkable Otto Komoly, who will be represented by his granddaughter Orna Barnea.

“His is a spectacular story – he saved so many Jews and made such a contribution, which is why we thought it important to honour him,” B’nai Brith spokesman Golan Yossifon told The AJN.

Komoly was president of the Zionist Federation in Hungary during the Holocaust, and later director of the International Red Cross “Department A”, responsible for rescuing Jewish children.

He established 52 shelters that were staffed by members of the Zionist youth movements, and as chairman of the Hungarian Jewish community’s clandestine Rescue Committee he oversaw the rescue of 5000 Jewish children to the shelters, before helping with the escape of Jews from Hungary to Palestine via Romania. He was the Jewish community’s principle interlocutor with moderate Hungarian leaders and with the neutral foreign legations that operated in Budapest.

Komoly came to a tragic end. In January 1945 he was kidnapped by members of the fascist Arrow Cross regime and never heard from again.

The official opening ceremony for Yom Hashoah will take place on Sunday in Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem. Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak. Yad Vashem’s chairman Avner Shalev will light the Memorial Torch, and survivors will light six more torches.