Righteous Among the Nations ceremony held at St Kilda Shule

December 15, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Yad Vashem and The Embassy of Israel in Australia have honoured Rena Skowronska-Skovell and Wilhelm Alois Spisky as Righteous Among the Nations at a ceremony held at Melbourne’s St Kilda Shule.

Ron Gerstenfeld, Charge d’Affaires at the Israeli embassy, presenting the Righteous Among the Nations award to Ms. Tina Fersterer (on behalf of her granduncle, Mr. Wilhelm Alois Spisky) and to Ms. Eva Collins, (on behalf of her mother Ms. Rena Skowronska-Skovell)

This honour is awarded by Yad Vashem and the State of Israel to recognize individuals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust without the expectation of any reward. The ceremony honoured Mrs Rena Skowronska-Skovell and Mr Wilhelm Alois Spisky for their efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust. The ceremony was organised jointly by the Embassy of Israel and Gandel Foundation.

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, takes an integrated approach to education and research, with memorials and inspirational exhibits. Their research allows us to accurately document one of humanity’s darkest periods. Their work also recognizes the deeds of the few who risked their own lives, and those of their families, to help those facing such horrors during this period.

Mrs Rena Skowronska-Skovell was born and raised in Vilna, a Lithuanian city in what was then part of Poland. She protected Mr Joseph Skovronek, and his then wife who came from a well-known Jewish banking family in Warsaw. When the Germans invaded Warsaw, they moved eastward and ended up in Vilna.

Mrs Rena found ‘safe houses’ for both of them which had to be frequently changed as it was dangerous to stay too long at one address. There were numerous times that the Gestapo arrested Mr Skovronek and Rena repeatedly helped in his release.

Wilhelm Alois Spisky helped release five Jews (Cogans from Poland) from prison. Spisky made contact with a friend of the Cogans, Emilian Mărculescu (also named Righteous) who bribed a Romanian police officer. Under the pretence of taking them to the border to be handed over to the Germans, instead, the Romanian officer brought them to Spisky. Thereafter, Spisky took the Cogans to his own apartment and kept them hidden there for six weeks.

Rena Skowronska-Skovell’s daughter Eva received the award on behalf of her late mother, Rena Skowrońska (Skovell) and Tina Fersterer, grandniece of Wilhelm Alois Spisky, will receive the award on behalf of her granduncly. Eva is the first generation of immigrants who moved from Warsaw to Australia after World War II.

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