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Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky honoured for saving Jews during the Holocaust

While the Anti-Defamation League has honoured the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who died in 1944 with the Jan Karski Courage to Care Award, Ukraine’s Jewish Community have joined the UGCC in creating a Sheptytsky Award to those serving the course of Ukrainian-Jewish reconciliation

The US-based Anti-Defamation League announced on Nov. 1 that it has honoured Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, who headed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church until his death in 1944.  He was honoured with the League’s Jan Karski Courage to Care Award “for his courageous efforts to protect Ukrainian Jews from extermination by supplying false identification papers and shelter from the Nazis at a time when such acts were punishable by death.”

On the same day, the anniversary of Sheptytsky’s birth, Ukraine’s Jewish community in cooperation with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) announced that they had initiated the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky Medal to people serving the cause of Ukrainian-Jewish reconciliation.

The following is from the ADL press release:

“We are honoring Metropolitan Sheptytsky for his selfless commitment to the goal of preserving human life, and for fighting anti-Semitism under the Nazi regime during a harrowing and dark moment in history, ” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “We can only speculate how many countless innocent lives were spared by the untiring efforts of this one compassionate individual.”

Established in 1987 to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era, the ADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award, was presented to Sheptytsky’s great nephew, Professor Jerzy Weyman, who accepted on behalf of his family.

“As a man of God, [Andrei Sheptytsky] was primarily concerned with bringing comfort to people and saving their lives, regardless of their nationality and background, ” said Professor Weyman. “Thanks to his moral vision, he succeeded in saving many during times so terrible they are hard to imagine for anybody who did not live through them.”

Metropolitan Sheptytsky (1865-1944) openly opposed the persecution of Jews, both directly to Nazi leadership and publicly to his entire community, with letters urging those individuals to not engage in what he termed “political murder.”

He had close and friendly ties to the Jewish community of the Lviv region before the war began, and Jews often turned to him for help. Under his direction and leadership, they were supplied with false papers, including baptism certificates, to protect them from capture by the Nazis. Some were hidden and disguised in monasteries. The Metropolitan himself sheltered Jews in his private library and other locations on his own premises. 

In February 1942, Sheptytsky wrote a letter to the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, protesting the Nazis’ murderous policy and complaining about the use of Ukrainian policemen to kill Jews. His pastoral letter “Thou Shalt Not Kill, ” which urged individuals to not engage in political murder, was read in every local church.

“In addition to those he saved directly, who knows how many more he saved indirectly, through his strong moral voice that influenced others to act, ” Mr. Foxman said in presenting the award. “The Ukrainian nationalism of Andrei Sheptytsky, one of compassion, even love, for his Jewish neighbors, is one that Jews around the world can embrace and support.”

Bishop Paul Chomnycky, a bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut, was also present at the ceremony. He spoke on behalf of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, to convey his sincere appreciation for the honor.

“From the midst of this quagmire of war, hatred, intolerance and death, from the depths of this corner of silence and darkness there emerged relatively few lights, relatively few voices of reason, tolerance and humanity, ” said Bishop Chomnycky. “But one shining beacon of hope in the darkness, one powerful voice of reason and humanity in the silence was found in the person of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.”

Created in 1987, the ADL Courage to Care Award was rededicated in 2011 in honor of one of its first recipients, Jan Karski, a Polish diplomat and righteous gentile who provided the West with one of the first eyewitness accounts of Hitler’s Final Solution. The award is a plaque with bas-reliefs that depict the horrifying context – the Nazis’ persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews – that served as a backdrop for the rescuers’ exceptional deeds. The award is made possible through a generous grant from Eileen Ludwig-Greenland.

Past recipients of the ADL Courage to Care Award include: Varian Fry, Dr. Feng Shan Ho, Colonel Jose Arturo Castellanos, Count Janos Esterhazy, Francisca Halamajowa, Horst Lantzsch, Irene Gut Opdyke, Gilberto Bosques Saldívar, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, Khaled Abdelwahhab, Ernst Leitz II, Mefail and Njazi Bicaku, Hiram Bingham IV, Sir Nicholas Winton, Konstantin Koslovsky, Jan and Miep Gies, Aristides De Sousa Mendes, Jan Karski, Selahattin Ulkumen, Chiune Sugihara, the French town of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, Emilie and Oskar Schindler, The Partisans of Riccione, Italy and Johanna Vos.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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