Descendants of Serbian woman who rescued Jews told to leave Israel

(JTA) – Israeli immigration authorities revoked the temporary residency status of two great-granddaughters of a Serbian woman who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Israel’s Ministry of the Interior sent a letter earlier this month explaining their decision to Ana Dudas, the late rescuer’s granddaughter, who immigrated to Israel with her husband and three daughters in 2011, the Israel Broadcasting Corp., or KAN, reported Wednesday.

According to Israeli law, the Jewish state may naturalize people it recognizes as Righteous Among the Nations – Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide – and their descendants up to three generations.

Ana Dudas, who is named for her late grandmother, immigrated with her family to Israel on that basis in 2011, according to the report. She was accepted as a candidate for naturalization and her husband and three daughters were given temporary residency in connection with her status. But the ministry this month informed Dudas that some residency permits will not be extended, KAN reported.

Ana Dudas’ eldest daughter married an Israeli citizen and had a child with him, and is therefore eligible for Israeli citizenship regardless of her mother’s status. But Ana Dudas’ application for citizenship and staying permit is dependent on her two younger daughters and husband leaving the country, according to the report. Their staying permits will not be extended.

“So who do I leave? A mother doesn’t leave her little girls, but does that mean I have to set aside my eldest?” a tearful Ana Dudas asked during a Hebrew-language interview with KAN. “It’s extremely difficult.”

Palo and Ana Dudas, the grandparents of the older immigrant mother, lived in the village of Lug, located near the Croatian-Serbian border. When all the Jews were ordered to register and to hand over their property, Palo and Ana Dudas offered refuge to the Deutsch family of Jewish merchants and found hiding places for them in different huts that were spread out in their fields. In order to camouflage the Jews’ identities, the Dudas family dressed them in Slovak peasant clothes and put them to work in the fields. Their eight-year-old daughter Katarina brought food to the Deutsches daily.

“The risk taken by the Dudas family was great as the majority of the local residents supported the Ustase” Nazi collaborators, wrote the Yad Vashem state Holocaust museum, which recognized the late couple’s heroism in 1995.

In the interview, Ana Dudas asked authorities to extend her younger daughters’ staying permit for “just a few more years” until they are 18.

Queried for a reaction, the Interior Ministry told KAN: “The procedure on the Righteous Among the Nations allows their children and grandchildren to stay and work in Israel for a definite period. When the [staying] application is made, these rules are made known to the applicants. Ana is eligible to extension of her staying permit as per the procedure.”

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