In the darkest days of World War II, the Nazi German regime reigned supreme over virtually all of Europe. Within these occupied lands, Jews were being rounded up and sent off to extermination camps for execution. Helping them escape was punishable by death.
In this dark and seemingly hopeless situation, hundreds of ordinary people risked all to shelter and smuggle Jews to safety. These were generally not organized efforts, simply moral people who reacted in horror to the fate of innocent neighbors and took action. Thousands of Jews were rescued in this way.
In 1953, the state of Israel established Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem to commemorate and perpetuate the memory of the heroes and martyrs of the Holocaust. An independent committee reviews and awards the honor of The Righteous Among the Nations to those documented cases of rescue. Over 20,000 people, from all nationalities and religious groups, have received this prestigious awards.
This work selects approximately 200 biographies from among the Righteous, and describes the circumstances of the rescue. Each entry includes description of the contact; the aid extended; dangers and risk faced by the rescuer; motivation (eg, friendship, altruism, religious belief); and evidence from the rescued. These little–known stories offer a picture of the best of humanity in the worst of times.
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This moving tribute to the best in the human spirit profiles more than 150 recipients of the Yad Vashem "Righteous Among the Nations" award, given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. They are just a few of the 21,310 who have received the award since its inception in 1963. The award grants honorary Israeli citizenship, but more than that, it acknowledges a high level of moral heroism. It is notable that most of the subjects do not see themselves as heroic but as following the only path they could. In the words of Lucien Bunel, when asked why he had disobeyed the laws against sheltering Jews, "I know of only one law, that of the gospels and of love." Each entry is told in narrative form, conversationally, as in a memoir. The result is a volume that is not only highly readable but that excerpts well for use in talks and lectures. In some cases, black-and-white photographs of the subjects of the entries are provided. Narratives center mostly on occupied Europe but also include humanitarians from the U.S. and Japan. The heavy paper and clarity of the photographs, along with the excellent use of white space, make the book a delight to use. A detailed index includes names of those rescued, the rescuers, and places that figured in their activities. A list of rescuers by country and a selected bibliography are also provided. A more condensed treatment than Israel Gutman's The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations (Yad Vashem, 2004–2007), this inspiring volume has a place in synagogue libraries as well as any library with a demand for materials on the topic. Welton, Ann
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