Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust

Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust

Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust

Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust

Synopsis

A welcome addition to Holocaust literature, this work presents a series of 49 personal reminiscences of non-Jewish citizens in various European nations who risked their lives to hide resident Jews from the Nazi horror. Most of those interviewed felt their actions were done out of friendship and for people caught in a web of hatred and anti-Semitism. They did not feel that they were acting heroically but that they were doing what was right. Portraits by Block of each of the rescuers accompany the text. These 49 are representative of the 9,295 rescuers honoured at the Yad Vashem in Israel. This is recommended reading for general readers as well as for college and university libraries.

Excerpt

There is a story about Clare Boothe Luce complaining that she was bored with hearing about the Holocaust. A Jewish friend of hers said he perfectly understood her sensitivity to the matter; in fact, he had the same sense of repetitiousness and fatigue, hearing so often about the crucifixion.

—Herbert Gold, Selfish Like Me

Of the great European murder of six million Jews, and the murderers themselves, there is little left to say.The barbaric years when Jews were hunted down for sport in the middle of the twentieth century have their hellish immortality, their ineradicable infamy, and will inflame the nightmares—and (perhaps) harrow the conscience—of the human race until the sun burns out and takes our poor earth-speck with it.Of the murder and the murderers everything is known: how it was done, who did it, who helped, where it was done, and when and why. Especially why: the hatred of a civilization that teaches us to say No to hatred.

Three "participant" categories of the Holocaust are commonly named: murderers, victims, bystanders.Imagination demands a choosing. Which, of this entangled trio, are we? Which are we most likely to have become? Probably it is hardest of all to imagine ourselves victims. After all, we were here and not there. Or we were Gentiles and not Jews or Gypsies.Or we were not yet born. But if we had already been born, if we were there and not here, if we were Jews and not Gentiles ...

"If" is the travail of historians and philosophers, not of the ordinary human article.What we can be sure of without contradiction—we can be sure of it because we are the ordinary human article—is that, difficult as it might be to imagine ourselves among the victims, it is not in us even to begin to think of ourselves as likely murderers. The "banality of evil" is a catchword of our generation; but no, it is an unusual, an exceptional, thing to volunteer for the SS; to force aged Jews to their knees to scrub the gutter with their beards; to empty Zyklon B canisters into the hole in the roof of the gas chamber; to enact those thousand thousand atrocities that lead to the obliteration of a people and a culture.

The victims take our pity and our horror, and whatever else we can, in our shame, cede to their memory. But they do not puzzle us. It does not puzzle us that the blood of the innocent cries up from the ground—how could it be otherwise? Even if humanity refuses to go on remembering, the voices crushed in the woods and under the fresh pavements of Europe press upward.The new plants that cover the places where corpses were buried in mass pits carry blood in their dew. Basement-whispers trouble the new blocks of flats that cover the streets where the flaming Warsaw Ghetto fell.The heavy old sideboards of the thirties that once stood in Jewish dining rooms in certain neighborhoods of Berlin and Vienna are in . . .

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