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These people were saints
, 2 Jun. 2008
This review is from: The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust (Hardcover)
Martin Gilbert is the greatest historian on the subject of the holocaust out there, and is one of the most prolific historians of today.
In The Righteous, Gilbert describes the many cases of righteous gentiles, throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, who risked their lives and all they had to save Jews, many of them children, from certain death at hte hands of the Nazi killing-machine.
Gilbert describes the heroic actions of those brave and righteous gentiles, by region describing the action of the unsung heroes in Eastern Galicia, Vilna, Lithuania, Poland, Warsaw, Western Galicia, Germany and Austria, Central Europe and the Balkans, Norway, Finland and Denmark, France, Belgium and Luxembourg, Holland, Italy and the Vatican and Hungary as well as in the Camps and on the death marches.
In some cases, entire nations came together to say no to Nazi evil, and to save the Jews of their country.
Denmark, Bulgaria and Albania stand out in this regard.
Irene Grunbaum wrote in her memoirs that one day she would tell the world how the Albanians 'protected a refugee and wouldn't allow her to be harmed even if it meant losing their lives. The gates of your small country remained open, Albania. your authorities closed both eyes, when neccesary, to give poor persecuted people another chance to survive the most horrible of all wars. We thank you'.
Morechaie Paldiel writes that 'An overwhelming majority of the Albanian population, Muslim and Christian, gave refuge to two thousand Jews in their midst, resulting in the almost total rescue of the Jewish community'.
While Gilbers describes the hroism of the Danish and Bulgarian people, he does not write enough on the very special and noble roles, to save Jews, taken by King Christian X of Denmark and King Boris III of Bulgaria.
Despite the collaborators and local anti-Semites in these nations, whole towns and villages came togehter in some cases, in France, Belgium, Holland and Greece, to save their Jews from Nazi anihilation.
Nazi Germany's allies, Italy and Hungary rejected Nazi genocide of Jews, and did what they could to save the Jews. Italian occupied zones in France,the Balkans etc were safe zones for Jews. Only after direct Nazi ocupation were the Jews of these countries taken to the death camps. Finland also protected her Jews, and the neutral countries like Spain, Portugal and Sweden played a role in saving a number of Jewish refugees.
Many Jewish children were taken in by Christian families throughout Europe and looked after them as their own.
In Poland and the East, the penalty for just having contacted a Jew was death.
There are many accounts of the recue and care of Jewish children by saintly people and families, during the war.
I will mention a few of them.
*In the Novogrudok region (which is today in Belarus), one of those saved was a baby, Bella Dzienciolska. 'Her parents had entrusted her to a farmer to hide. She was blonde and did not look like a Jewish child, but at two years old she already spoke Yiddish. So the farmer made a hole under the floor and kept her there during the day for a year until she forgot to speak. He then took her out and told the neighbours that a relatives child was staying with them.'.
Bella Dzienciolska suvived the war, and fifty years later, returned to the farm, and found the hole under the floorboards where she had been hidden.
Other children were hidden and raised by nuns and churchmen, in abbeys, monasteries, churches and hospitals and schools run by the Church.
* In the small town of Licskowke, in Eastern Galicia, Father Michael Kujita hid eight year old Anita Helfgott, a fugitive from the ghetto of Skole, in his parsonage. Later a Catholic couple, Josef and Paulina Matusiewicz gave her sanctuary. She survived the war.
* In Częstochowa, in Poland, Genowefa Starczewka-Korczak gave sanctuary to a little Jewish girl, Celina Berkowitz, shortly before her parents were killed. When the Nazis executed Genowefas husband she was forced to place her Jewish charge and her own two daughters in a Catholic orphanage. But each weekend she brough all three girls home.
* In the Siedlce region east of Warsaw, a poor peasant widow gave shelter to two Jewish girls, Eva, aged 11, and Batja, aged 5, sisters who had escpaed from the Warsaw ghetto and wandered for several moths through the Polish countryside.
Fearing betrayal, the peasant woman took Ester and Batja for sanctuary to Sister Stanislawa Jozwikowska, in the Heart of Jesus convent, near the village of Skorzec. 'I was dirty, ill, weak and full of lice' Batja recalled years later, 'The nuns washed me thoroughly, put me into soft pajamas and put me in a clean bed'.
Despite the convent being occupied by German soldiers, nobody knew of the girls Jewish identity except the Mother Superior, and
.Sister Stanislawa Jozwikowska. Sixty years after having been given shelter Batja recalled "Mother Superior Beata Bronislawa Hryniewicz healed me; she recovered my soul by great love; she pampered me as her own child; she dressed me nice and neat; she combed my hair and tied ribbons in my plaits; she taught me manners (she was from an aristocratic noble family). She was strict but fair with my duties; to pray, to study, to work on my character, to obey etc, but every step was with love, love love!'
Children, who were rescued by righteous gentiles, included Israel Lau, later Chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Israel, and Aharon Barak (out of the Kovno Ghetto in a suitcase as a child and hidden by a Lithuanian farmer), later President of the Supreme Court of Israel from 1995 until the middle of 2006.
Many people chose to help out of moral reasons or out of love for their charges. These people were Saints!
These stories are being re-examined at a time when some, like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad deny the Holocaust happened-while working to carry out a real holocaust against the Jews , while others forget history and aim to dismantle the Jewish State, built to a large extent by Holocaust survivors.
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