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In memory of the Holocaust

In memory of the Holocaust

17.1.2019 | Krajania v zahraničí | Kultúrna diplomacia | Kultúrna prezentácia | Prezentácia Slovenska v zahraničí |

The Israeli government award, Righteous Among the Nations, which gets awarded for selfless aid of persecuted Jews during the Holocaust has been awarded to another fifteen Slovak citizens in this year. One of the  awards was also given to a farmer from Skalité, Ondrej Čanecký. In April 1944 he found extremely exhausted refugees from Auschwitz concentration camp on his field. Ondrej Čanecký has risked his own life in order to take them into his home and take care of them. Later they have managed to get fake documents for the names Rudolf Vrba and Jozef Lánik. Thanks to their witness accounts the world first got to know the truth about the atrocities committed in Auschwitz. Their account is one of the most important documents from the tragedy of the Holocaust and it is also known as the Auschwitz Protocols.


The Slovak Embassy in London is communicating with professor Gerta Vrbová, who was a former wife of now deceased Rudolf Vrba, and she worked as a professor of neurology in the renowned London university UCL.
Professor Vrbová, who supported the nomination of Ondrej Čanecký with her witness account, has sent ambassador Ľubomír Rehák an essay from a high school student from Bratislava, Nikol Rácová. Nikol was awarded second place with this essay, that was held throughout high schools regarding lost neighbours.  The essay is up to date and we present it´s full version:


There are five types of people in this world:
The ones who stay silent
The ones who stand and watch
The ones who are willing to help
The ones who create unity and solidarity
And those who risk their lives in order to save the life of another
One of those people was also Ondrej Čanecký, a Slovak citizen. I first heard of him while watching the movie On the Edge. That is when the stories from history textbooks became concrete and real to me. 

This man saved two refugees from the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler. They suffered through two years in the concentration camp and managed to escape on the 7th of April 1944. They found themselves on a field next to Skalité after walking 170 kilometres, with them being in a desolate state, hungry and on the edge of collapse. They met Čanecký, a ploughman. He took them into his home, fed them for three days, allowed them to sleep and dressed them into his village clothes. He then took them to Čadca and handed them over to a doctor, Dr. Pollak. In Žilina, they then wrote up important witness accounts of the massive factory of death with evidence, which they brought from Auschwitz. 

During this time, the Germans punished refugee aid with death. What then led the humble farmer to risk his life, and the lives of his family, in order to help them? How come that his stance was to save these two young strangers? We now appreciate his help and his name is even mentioned in the annual march organised by the Vrba-Wetzler Memorial, known as Following the Steps of Heroes. The members of the march always stop by the grave of Čanecký and express deference. 


The entry into concentration camps meant death. Brutality, violence, hunger, illness, pain, the loss of Civil Rights and dignity – all caused by people. Because they could. Some of them considered it to be their national obligation to relieve their country of Jews, they were even encouraged by the then president Dr. Jozef Tiso. There were so many bodies there that the furnaces were unable to burn them all. It is difficult to believe that a human being would be capable of such things!
Today, some people choose to close their eyes when faced with historical truths. Even us, the youth, choose to live in the present, caring about holidays, shopping, photos on social media. However, we should consistently remind ourselves of what happened prior to our existence, keeping it a part of our lives. It is necessary for us to be taught about it in schools and talk about it within our families. Students often do not care about the past, as it can no longer be changed. Can it really be considered as the past? Is the past repeating itself? 

I think we have to know this part of history, so that we do not get manipulated by various groups, which doubt or even dispute the Holocaust. They take facts out of context, they lie, mislead, twist information and turn us against each other. Many people complain that nothing ever changes in Slovakia, yet they do not have the courage to get out of their comfort zone. They do not even have the courage to vote, be a citizen with responsibilities. Statuses on social media or loud-mouthed pub talks are not enough.
People like Ondrej Čanecký did not believe in differences, but in life itself and that is why they helped. Not much is needed for evil to win – it is enough for good people to remain idle. 


There are five types of people in this world: the silent, the observing, the sympathetic, the helping, the rescuing.

What kind of person are you?