Friday 18 October 2019

'Irish Oskar Schindler' - new €5m Cork bridge honouring woman who saved hundreds of Jewish children during WWII opens

Mary Elmes
Mary Elmes

Ralph Riegel

Mary Elmes, the woman known as "the Irish Oskar Schindler, saved more than 200 Jewish children from the Nazi concentration camps - and today she was honoured in her native Cork with the opening of a €5m pedestrian bridge.

Ms Elmes, from Ballintemple in Cork city, helped save more than 200 Jewish children during World War II.

In 1942, as Nazi Germany began the mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz, the Vichy France government made it clear it would no longer allow Jewish children to be exempt from being sent to the concentration camps.

The Corkwoman, who was an aid worker, saved youngsters by ferrying them to safe houses or helping them flee the country. She hid many of the children in the boot of her car and drove them to safety. In 1943 she was arrested and spent six months in a Gestapo-run prison.

Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes with a photograph of his mother, Mary at the official opening of the Mary Elmes Bridge in Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheed
Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes with a photograph of his mother, Mary at the official opening of the Mary Elmes Bridge in Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheed

She is the only Irish person honoured by Israel as 'Righteous Among the Nations' - the highest honour the Jewish state can bestow.

The same honour was accorded to Oskar Schindler, who famously used his metalworking factory in World War II to help thousands of Jews escape Nazi death camps.

To mark the event, the Cork Hebrew Congregation sponsored the commemorative plaque erected on the bridge.

Amongst the attendance at the ceremony were some of those saved by Ms Elmes in France.

From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, with Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein, who as children were rescued from deportation to Auschwitz by Mary Elmes. Pic: Brian Lougheed
From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, with Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein, who as children were rescued from deportation to Auschwitz by Mary Elmes. Pic: Brian Lougheed

Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein were just two of the children the Irish woman saved from being transported to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

Lord Mayor of Cork John Sheehan said it was a proud day for the city.

“We must remember that it was the ordinary people of Cork who decided to name this bridge after Mary Elmes," he said.

"The general public chose to honour Mary Elmes’ unstinting courage, her values and her deep humanity.  Already, the naming of this bridge after Mary has helped to spread the story of Mary Elmes in Cork and in Ireland. That, in itself, is a wonderful achievement.”

Mary Elmes saved hundreds of Jewish children from Auschwitz death camp while in France
Mary Elmes saved hundreds of Jewish children from Auschwitz death camp while in France

Ms Elmes' cousin, Mark, said it was "a very proud day" for their entire family.

Her son, Patrick Danjou, also attended the ceremony.

He said it was better to build bridges than to build walls.

Ms Elmes, who died in 2002, was previously honoured for her work as a volunteer ambulance worker during the Spanish Civil War.

More than 11,000 people will now use the bridge each day as it provides an easier River Lee crossing between two busy city centre areas.

The bridge was carefully installed last May using a heavy lift crane and specially-constructed barge.

Following a public consultation process, Ms Elmes was selected from a shortlist of five to have Cork city's new footbridge named after her.

Cllr. John Sheenan, Lord Mayor of Cork, with the assistance of Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, performing the official opening of the Mary Elmes bridge in Cork. Pic: Brian Lougheed
Cllr. John Sheenan, Lord Mayor of Cork, with the assistance of Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, performing the official opening of the Mary Elmes bridge in Cork. Pic: Brian Lougheed

A total of 92 submissions were made and 35 names were then proposed from that lsit.

In a run-off, Mary Elmes was selected by Cork City Council members by 17 votes compared with 12 votes for the next highest nominee, Donnchadh de Barra.

The new bridge links St. Patrick’s Quay with Merchant’s Quay from Harley Street on the northern side.

It is expected that up to 11,000 pedestrians and cyclists, travelling between the city centre and the Victorian Quarter daily, will benefit from the improved connectivity offered by the new bridge.

The Victorian Quarter is made up of MacCurtain Street and its surrounding areas.

It's envisaged that it will become a major focal point of Cork city in future years thanks to multi-million-euro developments in the adjacent Penrose Quay and Horgan's Quay areas.

 

 

CORK city officially opened its new €5m pedestrian bridge named to honour Mary Elmes, the woman known as "the Irish Oskar Schindler."

 

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At the ceremony were some of the people who owed their lives to Ms Elmes.

Ms Elmes, from Ballintemple in Cork city, is credited with having helped save more than 200 Jewish children from Vichy France during World War II, when Jewish families were being sent to concentration camps in Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland.

The Cork woman, who was an aid worker, hid youngsters in the boot of her car and took them to safety.

The bridge was carefully installed last May using a heavy lift crane and specially-constructed barge.

More than 11,000 people will now use the bridge each day as it provides an easier River Lee crossing between two busy city centre areas.

The decision to name the bridge after Ms Elmes followed a public vote.

READ MORE: Green giants: 8 Irish emigrants who helped change the world

She is currently the only Irish person honoured by Israel as 'Righteous Among the Nations' - the highest honour the Jewish state can bestow.

The same honour was accorded to Oskar Schindler who famously used his metalworking factory in World War II to help thousands of Jews escape Nazi death camps.

To mark the event, the Cork Hebrew Congregation sponsored the commemorative plaque erected on the bridge.

READ MORE: Remembering a forgotten Irish hero of the Holocaust

Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor John Sheehan said it was a proud day for the city.

“We must remember that it was the ordinary people of Cork who decided to name this bridge after Mary Elmes," he said.

"The general public chose to honour Mary Elmes’ unstinting courage, her values and her deep humanity. Already, the naming of this bridge after Mary has helped to spread the story of Mary Elmes in Cork and in Ireland and that in itself is a wonderful achievement”.

READ MORE: Unearthing a true Irish war heroine - the Irish Oskar Schindler

Ms Elmes cousin, Mark, said it was "a very proud day" for their entire family.

The aid worker died in 2002 having also been honoured for her work as a volunteer ambulance worker during the Spanish Civil War.

Following a public consultation process, Ms Elmes was chosen to have Cork's new city centre footbridge named after her from a shortlist of five.

A total of 92 submissions were made and a total of 35 names were proposed after whom the new bridge should be dedicated.

In a run-off, Mary Elmes was selected by Cork City Council members by 17 votes compared with 12 votes for the next highest nominee, Donnchadh de Barra.

The new bridge links St. Patrick’s Quay with Merchant’s Quay from Harley Street on the northern side.

It is expected that up to 11,000 pedestrians and cyclists, travelling between the city centre and the Victorian Quarter daily, will benefit from the improved connectivity offered by the new bridge.

The Victorian Quarter is made up of MacCurtain Street and its surrounding areas.

It will become a major focal point of Cork city in future years thanks to multi-million Euro developments in the adjacent Penrose Quay and Horgan's Quay areas.

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