– Nearly 50 Christian Poles who saved Jews during World War II were honored in Warsaw Sunday.

The oldest rescuer was 100 and others were in their 80s and 90s, some in wheelchairs or on crutches. They gathered for a luncheon at a luxury hotel in the city center where Poland's chief rabbi, an Israeli diplomat and a representative of the U.S.-based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous paid tribute to them.

"You represent the very best in Polish society. You are heroes," Stanlee Stahl, the foundation's executive vice president, said as she stood before them. "It is so important to acknowledge the courage and heroism of the righteous, for each of you saved the honor of humanity."

Poland was the only ­country under Nazi occupation where non-Jews caught helping Jews and their entire families were punished with death. Once home to Europe's largest Jewish population — about 3.3 million before the war — Poland also has the largest number of non-Jews recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Associated Press