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The Righteous Among the Nations

Our institute group had the privilege to attend a two-part ceremony honoring Stefan and Maria Magenheim as Righteous Among the Nations. Here’s their story. 

Stephen Lauden lights the flame in the Hall of Remembrance.
Stephen Lauden lights the flame in the Hall of Remembrance.

In March 1943, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto knew that they were going to be transported out. So the parents of a 5-year-old boy named Wlodzio sent messages to some Catholic friends to please take and raise their son. All refused in fear except an older childless Catholic couple, the Magenheims.

The child was smuggled into their home, where he was loved dearly. Uncle Stefan read stories to him and aunt Maria acted out little skits. But only three weeks later, someone betrayed the Magenheims and two policemen came to their house. Stefan bribed them to go away, but now they had to find a safer place for the boy. They took him to a Catholic orphanage where Maria could visit him.  

Stephen Lauden with the Righteous Among of the Nations medal.
Stephen Lauden with the Righteous Among the Nations medal.

After the war, Wlodzio’s parents found him and they all moved to the U.S. Stefan died in 1950 and Maria in 1966.

Their story was communicated to Yad Vashem and they were recognized in 2009. However, nobody knew if there were any living relatives of the Magenheims to accept a certificate and a medal. Finally, a grand-nephew read about them and contacted Yad Vashem.  

On this morning, Stephen Lauden lit the flame in the Hall of Remembrance. Later, in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, he received the medal and certificate and unveiled the names of his relatives.

Stephen is a film director in Poland and a very simple man. He thanked Yad Vashem and said, “They did what decent people should have done.” 

All of us were moved by the dignity of the morning.

In this garden, there are about 2,000 trees each with a plaque to one righteous gentile or a family. But they didn’t have room for 23,000 trees, so every name that has been verified is listed on a panel in nationality groups.

The most numerous, as I could see, were Poles.