A Father, a Math Teacher, and a Holocaust Hero

Stand for Israel  |  August 3, 2021

Aleksander Kramarovskiy, a math teacher who posed as father of Jewish child during Holocaust
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

A Russian schoolteacher, Aleksander Kramarovskiy posed as the father of one of his Jewish pupils, saving her life during the Holocaust.

A Math Teacher

A young Russian schoolteacher in the 1930, Aleksander Kramarovskiy taught math at an orphanage outside Moscow. One of his favorite students, Riva Reznikova, excelled at mathematics, but other children harassed her because of her Jewish faith. Riva’s mother died when she was five, and her uncle in Moscow was not able to care for the small girl, so he placed her in the orphanage. Mr. Kramarovskiy felt bad for Riva, and wanted to adopt her, but his wife would not allow it.

When the Nazis attacked in 1941, all of the staff and students of the orphanage fled – and then found themselves forced to work in the fields. The next year, the Nazis began to murder the Jews.

A Father

Everyone knew Riva was Jewish, and Aleksander realized her life was in danger. He left with the girl, wandering from place to place. Riva wore a wooden cross around her neck, and Aleksander referred to as his daughter, Margarita.

During the winter of 1942-1943, the the Nazis sent the two to a forced labor camp, where they remained for the rest of the war. After the camp’s liberation, the laborers – including “father and daughter” – returned to the Soviet Union. But soldiers from the Jewish Brigade arrived and offered to send Riva to the Holy Land. The girl did not want to go, but Aleksander told her she would have a better future in Israel. Riva refused to go unless her “father” could accompany her.

A Hero of the Holocaust

Riva and Aleksander made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1946. Riva got married and started a family of her own, with her teacher living with them. In 1961, Aleksander took a job in the United States, where he died in 1964. In 2011, he was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for the bravery and selflessness he showed in saving the life of his student and “daughter.”

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