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The Doctor Who Helped Slovakia's Jews

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Dr. Elemer Nemec

Life: 1890-1958

Why you should know him: Elemer Nemec was a gynecologist and director of a hospital in Eastern Europe who helped many Jews survive the Holocaust.

Dr. Nemec originally worked in Carpathian Ruthenia, an area that was then annexed by Hungary. After that happened, Dr. Nemec moved to Slovakia and became director of gynecology at a hospital there.

One of the women whose babies Dr. Nemec delivered before he left was a Jew named Karla Gruenwald. When Karla's husband was conscripted into labor service 1942, Karla and her daughter Erika fled the Nazis. After wandering homeless and alone for two years, the two finally ended up in Slovakia at the door of Dr. Nemec's office. Dr. Nemec and his wife Agata found a Christian family who hid young Erika, and placed Karla in a job as a cook. When the Jewish mother and daughter were discovered by the Nazis, Dr. Nemec testified that they were not Jewish, keeping them from being deported to a concentration camp and saving their lives. The doctor and his wife sheltered Karla and Erika until after the war.

Karla and her daughter were not the only Jews that Dr. Nemec aided. He helped others with medicine when they faced life-threatening illnesses, and even more with financial help when they were destitute and hiding, keeping countless people afloat until war's end, saving their lives in the process. After the war, however, the dawn of communism was not kind to the caring doctor. He suffered under communist rule and ultimately died before his many acts of selflessness were ever recognized. Those whose lives Dr. Nemec saved did stay in contact with his wife and children, and in 1994, he was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Tags: Stories , Partnerships and People

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