Buenos Aires Jewish center honors righteous gentile

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center recognized an Argentinian man for saving a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

The late Alberto Enrique Grimoldi, a shoemaker, was honored Tuesday at AMIA headquarters for his efforts on behalf of the Leiser family in the presence of his three children, Lucila, Jorge and Alberto Luis.

A member of the Leiser family, Liselotte Leiser, and Argentinian Jewish leaders participated in the ceremony to recognize Grimoldi’s heroism.

The Leiser family owned a large chain of some 35 shoe stores in Germany. In 1933, Grimoldi visited them to learn about production and the retail shoe business.

After the Nazis expropriated the family’s shoe stores, the Leisers sent their life savings to Grimoldi in Argentina. Grimoldi also allowed them to put his name on shoe stores owned by the Jewish family in Holland to prevent them from being expropriated.

In 1938, the Leisers escaped to Holland, but two years later the Nazis deported them to the Westerbork camp. In 1944 they were sent to a refugee camp in France.

Following World War II, the Leisers wanted to immigrate to Argentina but instead received visas to neighboring Uruguay. Grimoldi intervened, saying the Leisers’ business expertise was important for Argentinian industry, allowing the family to gain entry papers to Argentina.

Grimoldi, who died in 1953, helped the Leisers to immigrate and resettle, and returned their savings to them.

Liselotte Leiser, 94, and her daughter, Virginia, used the Internet recently to locate and contact the Grimoldi family. Liselotte Leiser was invited to the Grimoldi factory to tell the story to Grimoldi’s descendants.

This story was made public for the first time on Aug. 24 by the newspaper Clarin.

The AMIA will ask the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem to dedicate a tree in the Righteous Among the Nations Park to Grimoldi, who was recognized last week by lawmaker Rabbi Sergio Bergman in a special Sabbath ceremony at Argentina’s oldest synagogue, Libertad Temple.