Righteous Gentiles

Righteous Gentiles
(aka Righteous Among The Nations)
   The Avenue of the Righteous, located outside Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, honors those Gentiles who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust, despite the fact that if caught it would entail severe punishment or execution. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 Gentiles risked their lives by hiding Jews from deportation to the death camps. Many of the names of these heroic people are unknown, but Israel has honored more than 8,000 persons who have been designated “Righteous Gentiles” because of their efforts on behalf of Jews.
   The manner in which the Righteous Gentiles saved Jews took many forms, such as hiding Jews in one’s own home, as was the case of Countess Maria von Maltzen, who hid Jewish writer Hans Herschel, along with other Jews, in her small Berlin apartment. Oskar Schindler provided Jews with work in his factory as a means of protecting them from being deported to the death camps. Rescuers were always aware that they might be the subject of searches conducted by the Nazis to uncover those in hiding but, nevertheless, they were willing to share their scarce supply of food with the Jews and risk denunciation by collaborators.
   In southern France, the small Protestant village of Le Chambonsur-Lignon, led by its minister, Andre Trocme, concealed Jews in full view of Vichy officials and a nearby division of the Schutzstaffel (SS). In the Dutch village of Nieuwlande, each villager agreed to hide one Jewish family or individual Jew. The collective effort of the Danish people to save 7,000 Jews by ferrying them in small boats to Sweden is well known. The record of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in aiding Jews in Paris, Marseilles, Lisbon, and Madrid, and its role in feeding and rescuing Jewish children in France, provides an outstanding example of what other Christian denominations might have accomplished had they had the same interest as the Quakers in helping Jews to survive. Active participation in protecting Jews from deportation often placed the lives and careers of individuals in danger. Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground, twice slipped into the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and subsequently made his way to London and later the United States to report on the deplorable conditions that he witnessed. Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, confronted the Nazis in Hungary by issuing protective passports, which saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews on the eve of the German deportations. Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese consul general in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, lost his position when he defied his government by issuing thousands of entry visas to Jews escaping the Nazis. Similarly, Aristide de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese diplomat, was dismissed from the Foreign Service for issuing approximately 10,000 transit visas to Jewish refugees.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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