|Israeli President Shimon Peres holding the memento|
presented to him by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev
|President Shimon Peres with members of the Commission|
for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations,
Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev
and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau
British soldier Charles Coward joined the British army in 1924, and served five years in India. During WWII, holding the rank of sergeant major, Coward fought on the French front; in 1940 he was wounded and captured at Dunkirk. He escaped from captivity several times, and was eventually incarcerated at the Monowitz camp near Auschwitz. During this period, Coward helped save a number of Jews. Known as the "Count of Auschwitz," he had the idea of collecting precious chocolate and cigarettes from his fellow British prisoners, and exchanging them with Auschwitz guards for dead bodies. He substituted these bodies for Jewish inmates, who he helped to escape. On February 16, 1964, Yad Vashem recognized Charles Coward as Righteous Among the Nations.
The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nation has been active for 50 years. The independent committee acts much as a jury and its final decisions are reached by a vote. The Commission is comprised of researchers, legal experts and historians, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, and all of whom are volunteers. To date, more than 24,000 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.