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Woman hailed as Irish 'Oskar Schindler' gets special bridge honour

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Pride: From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, with Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein, who were rescued from deportation to Auschwitz, at the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Mary Elmes. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Pride: From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, with Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein, who were rescued from deportation to Auschwitz, at the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Mary Elmes. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Pride: From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes, with Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein, who were rescued from deportation to Auschwitz, at the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Mary Elmes. Photo: Brian Lougheed

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

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.

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Mary Elmes with her daughter Caroline

Mary Elmes with her daughter Caroline

Mary Elmes with her daughter Caroline

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

Ms Elmes, from Ballintemple, in Cork city, is credited with having helped save more than 200 Jewish children from Vichy France in 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, helped save the youngsters by hiding them in the boot of her car and ferrying them to safety.

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 new bridge.

Those at the ceremony included some of those saved by Ms Elmes in France. Charlotte Berger-Greneche and Georges Koltein were just two of the children the Irish woman saved from shipment to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

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

Her son, Patrick Danjou, also attended the ceremony.

He said "a bridge is better (to build) than a wall".

Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor John Sheehan said it was a very 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's 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."

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

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 new bridge.

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

Cork's Victorian Quarter will become a major focal point in future years thanks to multi-million euro developments at Penrose Quay and Horgan's Quay.

Irish Independent