Irish woman who was dedicated to saving lives during the Holocaust to be honoured for the first time in Ireland.

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September 19, 2016

Irish woman who was dedicated to saving lives during the Holocaust to be honoured for the first time in Ireland.

 
It has just been announced that Cork woman, Mary Elmes (1908 -2002) will be honoured posthumously at the Network Ireland Business Woman of the Year Awards, which take place in the Clarion Hotel Cork on Friday 30th September.   She will receive the Trish Murphy Award, which is awarded each year to someone who has made an outstanding contribution in their field or community. 
 
This will be the first time this great humanitarian will be honoured in Ireland, although three years ago she became the first Irish person to be honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, for her work in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust. 
 
Mary was an extraordinary woman and risked her life to save the lives of others during WWII. Elmes was born in Cork in 1908 where her parents had a family business in Winthrop Street - J Waters and Sons, Dispensing Chemists. Elmes went on to study French and Spanish at Trinity college Dublin and also attended the London School of Economics.
 
Mary selflessly travelled to Spain where she worked in many children's hospitals during the Spanish civil war. She then moved onto France where she helped care for many of the half a million Spanish men, women and children who struggled into France. In 1942, during the Holocaust, Rivesaltes in the Pyrénées became the holding centre for all Jews. Mary worked tirelessly to save the lives of Jewish children and to bring them to safety before they would have been taken to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. Among many of the children who were luckily saved during the Holocaust by Mary were Ronald and Michael Friend. At the age of two and five she rescued these two young boys from death, unfortunately their father did not survive. Mary also endured six months in Gestapo prison in Paris on suspicion for helping Jews escape. When released, Mary returned to help the victims of the Holocaust, risking further detention.
 
President of Network Ireland, Deirdre Waldron stated ‘We are delighted and very proud to lead the way in Ireland by honouring Mary Elmes and hopefully other organisations in Ireland will follow us in recognising Mary’s work and that many more people will connect with her story.  What Mary did in the war, keeping a hospital open on her own, as well as saving children from Nazi control, being jailed for six months, then released and going back to work again is incredible. Mary’s ethos throughout her life is extremely admirable. She was fearless, she never gave up when times got tough and never left anything get in her way.”
 
John Morgan, Trustee of Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS), ‘I’m delighted that Mary Elmes is being celebrated in her home city of Cork for her huge courage and compassion, including helping people to evade deportation to concentration camps during WWII. She is a leading example of the bravery of Irish women during dark times in Europe. Their inspiration has remained unrecognised for too long. Congratulations to Network Ireland for bringing Mary's story home to Cork’.
 
Mark Elmes, Mary’s nephew, who resides in Cork will be accepting the award on behalf of the Elmes family stated “The family are very happy to accept this award on behalf of our aunt.  While Mary in her lifetime was a very private lady I would say she would be delighted to be remembered in this way”.
 
For further information on Network Ireland Business Awards visit www.networkireland.ie.