Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016: Lois Gunden of Goshen, three others who protected Jews during Holocaust to be honored

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By: Krystal Vivian kvivian@953mnc.com

July 4th history
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A Goshen woman is among four people who will be honored by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Jan. 27, for risking her life to protect Jews during the Holocaust. 

Obama is joining Jewish leaders at a ceremony Wednesday at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, where the Righteous Among the Nations medals are to be presented posthumously.

Lois Gunden of Goshen and fellow American Roddie Edmons of Knoxville, Tenn., will be honored, along with Polish citizens Walery and Maryla Zbijewski.

Gunden was a 26-year-old French teacher in 1941 when she joined the Mennonite Central Committee and another Mennonite group to help start a children’s home in France for refugees, according to Goshen College.

Spanish refugees and Jewish children, many from a nearby internment camp, found safety at the home, including a girl who was 12 when she was rescued from the internment camp by Gunden in 1942. 

Ginette Kalish nominated Gunden for the Righteous Among the Nations award.

“At the time I was 12 years old and certainly scared, but Lois Gunden was quite kind and passionately determined to take me and these other Jewish children out of Rivesaltes to protect them from harm,” Kalish told Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims. “I remember Lois Gunden being kind and generous and she made a special effort to blend us in with the other children. None of the other children were told that we were Jewish.”

Gunden was detained by the Germans in 1943 and released about a year later.

After the war, she taught French at Goshen College and Temple University and was a minister in the Mennonite church. She died in 2005.

The United Nations has designated Wednesday as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.

Six million Jews were killed by Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.

Darlene Superville with the Associated Press contributed to this report.