MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – Before Rabbi Michael Weissmandl founded the Nitra Yeshiva in Mount Kisco in 1948, he was a hero to thousands of Slovakian and Hungarian Jews he helped escape, or delay deportation during World War II.
The New York State Legislature plans to present a posthumous state Medal of Honor to Weissmandl for his rescue efforts, which involved paying a ransom to those in charge of deportation, organizing underground bunkers and shelters and writing the “Auschwitz Protocols,” which alerted the international community to the genocide taking place under the Nazi regime.
Weissmandl delivered daily lectures to those he saved, forming a makeshift Yeshiva, or Jewish educational institution. The Yeshiva was discovered and dispersed a few months before the end of the war.
Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, Jan. 27, the Legislature presented Weissmandl’s son, Rabbi Shmiel Dovid, with a framed copy of a resolution honoring his father’s work. Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, delivered the invocation for Monday's session.
"Ejected from Europe many of those rescued Jews settled in the U.S. and made our Great State of New York home. The community continues to flourish because the freedom to practice our faith has never wavered in these hallowed halls," Niederman said.
The Holocaust hero survived the war and re-established his Yeshiva in the U.S. with about 80 young men from various hiding places and concentration camps who lost their families in the war. After a short time in Somerville, N.J. Weismmandl bought the 300-acre Brewster Estate in Mount Kisco, which remains today.
"At a time when the absolute devastation of the Nazi Genocide was destroying families like my own, Rabbi Weissmandl spent his every breathing moment during the Holocaust to save Jews,” Niederman said.
The Nitra Yeshiva in Mount Kisco now has a campus in Chester, N.Y. and several synagogues and an education network in Brooklyn and upstate New York.
The resolution honoring Weissmandl's work is part of an ongoing campaign by the Weissmanl Committee and the UJO to increase awareness of his rescue work.