'Hero' who hid Jewish friend from Nazis honoured at Israeli ceremony

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media captionA woman who saved her Jewish friend from Nazis is given an award by the State of Israel.

A woman who risked her life during World War Two by hiding a Jewish friend from the Nazis has been honoured in a ceremony by the state of Israel.

Dorothea Weber hid Hedwig Bercu from German forces occupying Jersey.

They survived for 18 months on Mrs Weber's rations, food from Ms Bercu's German lover and fish caught at night.

Mrs Weber was posthumously awarded the "Righteous Among the Nations" honour for showing "extraordinary courage" during the holocaust.

image copyrightChannel Islands Occupation Society (Jersey) Ltd
image captionThousands of German troops were stationed in Jersey and the Channel Islands were heavily fortified as part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall

Cambridge University academic Gilly Carr campaigned for the bravery to be recognised.

She said: "This encourages us to look beyond stereotypes like no other rescue story."

image captionMrs Weber was posthumously awarded the "Righteous Among the Nations" honour for showing "extraordinary courage" during the holocaust

Before the German occupation, which started on 30 June 1940 and lasted until 9 May 1945, fewer than 100 Jews lived on the Channel Islands.

Most had left the islands before the occupation began.

Ms Bercu, one of only a handful of registered Jews who remained in Jersey, had worked as a typist for the German authorities but went into hiding after being reported for smuggling petrol coupons.

image captionHedwig Bercu left a suicide note at St Aubin's Bay

She faked her suicide at St Aubin's Bay, leaving a note and a pile of clothes on the beach.

However, the German authorities were not convinced and continued to hunt for her.

image copyrightStates of Jersey

While Ms Weber, nee Le Brocq's, Austrian husband was being forced to fight for Hitler's forces in Europe, she sheltered her friend Hedwig.

Ms Bercu was also in a relationship with a German officer, Lt. Kurt Rümmele, who smuggled food to her.

After the islands were liberated by allied forces, the pair married.

Dr Carr said: "It's a remarkable story where the woman who did the sheltering was married to a soldier in the German army; where a Jewish woman was working for the Germans; and where one or two German soldiers were complicit in the rescue story.

image captionGerman officer Lt. Kurt Rümmele smuggled food to Hedwig and later married her

The two women grew apart after the war and Ms Weber, who was later identified as an inadvertent bigamist, passed away in 1993.

She is the second Channel Islander to receive the honour. Albert Bedane was awarded it in 2000 for sheltering Dutch Jewish woman Mary Richardson.

Righteous Among Nations

  • Awarded by the Yad Vashem - the Jewish living memorial to the Holocaust - on behalf of the state of Israel
  • Given to non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, perhaps the most famous of whom is Oskar Schindler
  • The main reasons for receiving the honour include hiding Jews, rescuing children and helping Jews to escape
  • The names of the "Righteous Among the Nations" are added to the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
  • Applications for the honour must include available data such as survivor testimonies, which are evaluated by a board of experts
  • More than 25,000 people have received the award since 1963, with 21 people honoured in Great Britain at the start of 2016
image captionA commemorative plaque has been placed outside the house where Dorothea hid Hedwig

The Ambassador of Israel, His Excellency Mark Regev, presented a specially-minted medal from the Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, to Mrs Weber's family at a ceremony at Jersey's Tapestry Museum.

A commemorative plaque has been placed outside the home where Dorothea hid Hedwig during the occupation.

The States of Jersey said it was "very pleased" Hedwig and Kurt's three children were able to witness the ceremony, which "remembers their parents and pays tribute to Dorothea".

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