B’nai B’rith World Center And JRJ To Honor Jewish Rescuer Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki

The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) will confer their joint „Jewish Rescuer’s Citation” upon Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki who risked his life saving Jews from deportation and extermination during the Holocaust in Drohobych, Poland. The citations will be conferred at a ceremony on March 7 at Beit Hatfutsot – Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel at 18:30 (local time).



Katharina Dr.Gasinska-Lepsien

Backenroth was born in 1905 in Drohobych, Galicia. Heir to an oil family, Backenroth studied agriculture in France as part of his plan to make Aliyah, but returned home after graduating to help his family cope with the severe economic crisis at the time. Between 1939 and 1941, under Soviet rule, Backenroth was appointed as county agronomist by Nikita Khrushchev, then a regional official.


With the German invasion of Drohobych in the summer of 1941 and the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish population in the town and the surroundings, Backenroth started to systematically organize and employ Jewish workers who were conscripted under the Gestapo orders. Recognizing that if the Nazis became dependent on Jewish labor there was less chance that they would be deported and murdered, Backenroth initiated the establishment of workshops, agricultural farms and a horse riding school for the Germans that provided an excuse to employ Jews and save them from death. The status he attained as „foreman” of Jewish labor in Drohobych allowed him to extract Jews who were detained in a major actzia (mass round-ups of Jews during the Holocaust) in 1942 and bring them back to work. When it became evident that the work permits were only a temporary defense from deportation and murder, Backenroth used the means accessible to him in the workshops to build bunkers, which served as a hiding place for dozens of Jews. They survived the war with his assistance.

In 1943, in a clever ruse, Backenroth was recognized by the Gestapo as an “Aryan.” Despite the danger to him and to his family from the local population he continued to play, befuddle and confuse the Nazis. His position as an “Aryan” allowed him to move freely and organize a food supply system for the Jews who survived in the bunkers and hiding places he created.


Thousands of Drohobych Jews were executed at the Bronitza forest nearby. In memory of them, Backenroth changed his name after the war to Bronicki.

When Backenroth-Bronicki was asked why he does not tell stories about that period of his life he said, „what accompanies me all the time, are not the Jews I was able to save, but the memory of all the Jews I could not rescue.”

From the committee considerations: Backenroth-Bronicki is a symbol of Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust, expressed in surprisingly varied initiatives to rescue Jews from deportation and extermination. The resourcefulness, dedication, wisdom and courage demonstrated by Backenroth-Bronicki against the Gestapo from the moment he realized he could save the lives of Jews, is a marvel of risk-taking and limit-testing on a daily basis. His unique personality, authoritativeness and reliability, made him likeable to both his enemies and friends—among them two Germans who helped with the rescue operations, and later received Righteous Among the Nations. These rescue operations ensured the survival of dozens of Jews. Therefore the committee decided to honor Backenroth-Bronicki with the Jewish Rescuer Citation.

“The heroism of Naftali Backenroth-Bronicki should put to rest once and for all the notion that the Jewish people didn’t fight back, which has wrongly tainted Holocaust historiography for more than 70 years,” B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said. “It is very important for Jewish rescuers to be included among the categories of all who rescued Jews.”

The Citation will be presented posthumously to Backenroth-Bronicki’s son Yehuda Lucien, who as a child was complicit in some of his father’s rescue efforts.

Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in order to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue other Jews during the Holocaust. To date 162 heroes were honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Holland.

​The ceremony will take place at the annual memorial for the survivors of Drohobych, Borislav and the Surroundings organization. Participating in the ceremony is Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center and Yehuda Bronicki, son of Naftali Backenroth, family and friends.

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  1. I would recommend the B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider & The Drohobycz Borislaw association to consider, of appearance on the meeting the son of Mis Dina Ostrower called „DONIA” who endangered her life by saving an Jewish couple. The story of Efrozyna Skoblek Dina Ostrower (Pikholc)


    „Donia”- bravery, resourcefulness, luck and fate

    The unbelievable story of a seventeen and half year old Jewish girl, who jumped from a train carrying her to a death camp, pretended to be Christian and saved herself and a Jewish couple.

    As it was told to Shlomo Adler, author of „A Jew Again”.

    „Jump my child, maybe thanks to you there will remain a sign of our family.” Those were the last words Dina heard from her father before she jumped into the darkness of the night.

    A Jewish orthodox girl, born in the village Synowódzko Niżne in the Stryj River valley at foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, she jumped from a train taking her, all her family and some 2000 Jews from the Stryj ghetto to the Belzec death camp.

    An uncle, who had been able to survive that fatal “aktzia” was able to somehow obtain Christian documents for her. At first, Dina was reluctant to use them. Being orthodox, she was then taken to a Rabbi Perlow from Bolechow, who at that time was in the Stryj ghetto and had also survived the same action. The Rabbi urged Dina to use the Christian documents. His recommendation, together with the last words she had heard from her father before she jumped from the train, persuaded her to do so and pretend to be Ukrainian in order to survive.

    She obtained a job at the German casino in Bolechow, a neighboring city. The husband of the casino manager, Harasimow, was a high ranking officer at the Ukrainian SS „Halichyna” Division.

    Her observance of those admonitions saved her life but also placed her at times in perilous situations. She also suffered from pangs of conscience, because she might be the only one from her family who survived. As a result, she offered to help save a Jewish accountant called Shlomo (Shumek) Reinhartz, who worked at the casino and his new wife.

    As a hiding place, she chooses the roof space above the outdoor toilets attached to the barn behind the casino. (In small shtetels in Galicia, with no running water, the toilets were outside.) Not realizing that she was, in fact, Jewish, the accountant was suspicious of the fact that this „shikse” was offering to help them. He suspected that she wanted to hide them in order to rob them and then hand them over to the Germans.

    However, his wife realized that “Donia,” as she was known, must be Jewish and persuaded him to accept the girl’s aid. The couple entered the hiding place just a few days before the total liquidation of Jews in Bolechow. For 13 months the couple was preserved in this tiny hideout.

    During those 13 months, not once was the couple discovered, despite some moments of great danger. Dina’s resourcefulness helped her to overcome those fearful incidents. Once, she was even helped by a pig.

    After the liberation „Donia” again assumed her true identity, but asked the couple Reinhartz not to tell anyone about what she had done.

    They immigrated to Israel and established a family, as did she. She didn’t want to tell her story, didn’t feel that she had done anything exceptional and therefore, did not expect any further thanks.

    „What I did, I did to assuage my sense of guilt that I was the sole survivor of my family”.

    I tried unsuccessfully to convince her to tell me her story, in order to preserve it among the records of Jewish bravery and immolation.

    However, when she reached the age of 86, her sons persuaded her to agree to tell me her unbelievable story. It occupied me so much that I put aside another story I was writing, „The Confession of 1948 soldier” and devoted myself totally to writing „Donia”.

    I must confess—being myself a survivor—that during the period of over a year while I was writing this book, I experienced all of her suffering, as if it had happened to me. I felt all her fears and daily conflicts.

    „Donia’s” story reminds me that she is the same age as my sister Miriam of blessed memory would have been. Miriam had Christian documents too. My mother was a congregant of the same Rabbi Perlow, but for some reason she didn’t approach him in order to influence my sister to use those false documents. Miriam didn’t want to do so, perhaps lacking the courage or will power to save herself and survive.

    „Donia” on the other hand did so with great resolution.

    The story of the savior and the survivors was partly filmed and recorded by the Israeli TV first channel and some sections were incorporated in the film „Neighbors and Murders” shown by the same channel on the international Holocaust day, last January 27th.

    Shlomo Adler

    Kfar Saba February 2010

    In July 2013 Mrs. Ostrower Dina, has received a nice certificate from the B’nai B’rith world center. In the same year she was honored by Yad Vashem to light one of the 6 torches on the Holocaust day, & was honored by The president Mr. Shimon Perec, Pray minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, & former British pray minister Mr. Tony Blair

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