Adi Daliot was in his 60s when he found out that his father, Hubert Pollack, helped save over 10,000 Jews in Nazi Germany during the years leading up to the Holocaust.
Sworn to secrecy by his co-conspirator, Jewish Anglo-German philanthropist Wilfrid Israel, Pollack kept his story quiet — even from his family. It was only after Daliot (the family adopted a Hebrew surname after moving to Israel) came across a written account by Pollack in 2002, nearly 35 years after his death, that Pollack’s heroic role became known.
Pollack is to posthumously receive the Jewish Rescuers Citation along with 12 other Holocaust-era heroes on Thursday, which marks Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, at the Forest of the Martyrs in the Jerusalem hills. Six million trees have been planted there in commemoration of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
The award was created in 2011 by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) to honor and recognize the Jewish rescue of fellow Jews during the genocide.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, awards the Righteous Among the Nations designation for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews, but does not have an official honor for Jews who saved their own.
“The forms of Holocaust research and commemoration in Israel are largely set by the Yad Vashem Law, which lays out the institution’s scope of responsibility,” said B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem director Alan Schneider.
“The heroism of Jewish rescuers who risked their lives in an effort to save other Jews are not within Yad Vashem’s formal purview. Motivated by rescuers and rescued alike, B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish rescuers decided to shine a spotlight on these selfless men and women through the establishment of the citation,” Schneider told The Times of Israel.
Pollack’s grandson, Ofer Daliot, said his father, now 84, has been waiting to see Pollack’s deeds recognized for years.
“My father is reaching the end of his life, and he’s been fighting to write this background and build recognition for the Pollack family, so he’s very excited that his father is finally getting recognition,” Ofer Daliot said.
During the 1930s, Pollack worked in Berlin as a statistician for the German government, and also for Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, where he managed statistics for the local Jewish community.
Together with Wilfrid Israel, a wealthy and influential businessman, as well as Cpt. Francis Foley, an MI5 agent who worked at the British Embassy in Berlin, Pollack helped execute a plan to issue thousands of exit visas for German Jews seeking to escape the Nazi regime.
The subterfuge was risky and involved Pollack bribing Gestapo officials with money given to him by Israel. Foley issued visas allowing the refugees into British territory – including what was then British Mandate Palestine.
Pollack left Germany with his wife and sons — including Adi Daliot — in August 1939, just one month before World War II broke out, and came to pre-state Israel. While Pollack refused to speak to anyone about what he’d done, he made one exception, giving a lengthy testimony in 1944 to a nascent organization that would eventually become Yad Vashem.
This testimony was used in the famous trial of SS officer and Final Solution architect Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, and also helped secure the designation of Righteous Among the Nations for Foley.
Aside from that, however, Pollack is not known to have spoken about the rescue operation again, staying true to a non-disclosure agreement Wilfrid Israel made him sign — despite the fact that Israel died in 1943 when a passenger plane he was on from Lisbon to Bristol was shot down by the German Luftwaffe.
“My grandfather was a real yekke,” Ofer Daliot said, using the Yiddish term for German Jews who follow protocol closely. “He had such a sense of propriety — if Wilfrid didn’t tell him it was okay, he wasn’t saying anything.”
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