They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust

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9780826218605: They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust
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Hitler’s attempt to murder all of Europe’s Jews almost succeeded. One reason it fell short of its nefarious goal was the work of brave non-Jews who sheltered their fellow citizens. In most countries under German control, those who rescued Jews risked imprisonment and death. In Poland, home to more Jews than any other country at the start of World War II and location of six German-built death camps, the punishment was immediate execution.             This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. The authors traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. Tammeus and Cukierkorn unfold many stories that have never before been made public: gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.             These are harrowing accounts of survival and bravery. Maria Devinki lived for more than two years under the floors of barns. Felix Zandman sought refuge from Anna Puchalska for a night, but she pledged to hide him for the whole war if necessary—and eventually hid several Jews for seventeen months in a pit dug beneath her house. And when teenage brothers Zygie and Sol Allweiss hid behind hay bales in the Dudzik family’s barn one day when the Germans came, they were alarmed to learn the soldiers weren’t there searching for Jews, but to seize hay. But Zofia Dudzik successfully distracted them, and she and her husband insisted the boys stay despite the danger to their own family.             Through some twenty stories like these, Tammeus and Cukierkorn show that even in an atmosphere of unimaginable malevolence, individuals can decide to act in civilized ways. Some rescuers had antisemitic feelings but acted because they knew and liked individual Jews. In many cases, the rescuers were simply helping friends or business associates. The accounts include the perspectives of men and women, city and rural residents, clergy and laypersons—even children who witnessed their parents’ efforts.             These stories show that assistance from non-Jews was crucial, but also that Jews needed ingenuity, sometimes money, and most often what some survivors called simple good luck. Sixty years later, they invite each of us to ask what we might do today if we were at risk—or were asked to risk our lives to save others.

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About the Author:

Bill Tammeus, a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Kansas City Star, is the author of A Gift of Meaning (University of Missouri Press) and lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, descended from Polish rabbis, is the spiritual leader of the New Reform Temple in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide.

Review:

“They Were Just People is an important contribution to the literature of rescue during the Holocaust. Tammeus and Cukierkorn have brought to the fore many gripping stories never before told, forming an inspirational narrative of courage and survival. These are the experiences of people who had the courage to care and the courage to act in a time when caring for others meant endangering oneself and one’s family. A Reader’s Guide supplements the poignant stories and compels the reader to reflect and discuss the implications of choice and action. The stories are individual, the lessons universal.”
Stanlee J. Stahl, Executive Vice President, The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous



“A wonderfully written, engaging book providing a perspective that sadly is often missing when reading about the Holocaust. It shows that at least a few people saved the honor of humankind and witnessed God, even in the midst of such terrible times.”—Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, Distinguished Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey



“By sharing these personal accounts, authors Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn provide for their readers a glimpse into the dilemmas and decisions faced by Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in Poland and by non-Jews who played a role in their survival. This book offers a useful perspective for those wanting to learn more about the Holocaust and the context in which rare acts of rescue occurred.”
Midwest Center for Holocaust Education



They Were Just People is a clear-eyed documentation of compassion during the Holocaust. The harrowing hunt to capture and exterminate a Jewish population in Poland is recalled by a score of survivors aided by rescuers—family, friends, and strangers—whose moral code and humanity transcended their own fear of Nazi retribution. But the stories do not sentimentalize nor analyze. Each account, carefully researched and corroborated, bears witness both to the survivors’ will to live and their rescuers’ determination to do the right thing.  Authors Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn triumph in a journalistic achievement about the innate spiritual resilience of humanity.”— Suzette Martinez Standring, Past President, National Society of Newspaper Columnists

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Book Description University of Missouri Press, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Hitler s attempt to murder all of Europe s Jews almost succeeded. One reason it fell short of its nefarious goal was the work of brave non-Jews who sheltered their fellow citizens. In most countries under German control, those who rescued Jews risked imprisonment and death. In Poland, home to more Jews than any other country at the start of World War II and location of six German-built death camps, the punishment was immediate execution. This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. The authors traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. Tammeus and Cukierkorn unfold many stories that have never before been made public: gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter. These are harrowing accounts of survival and bravery. Maria Devinki lived for more than two years under the floors of barns. Felix Zandman sought refuge from Anna Puchalska for a night, but she pledged to hide him for the whole war if necessary - and eventually hid several Jews for seventeen months in a pit dug beneath her house. Through some twenty stories like these, Tammeus and Cukierkorn show that even in an atmosphere of unimaginable malevolence, individuals can decide to act in civilized ways. Some rescuers had antisemitic feelings but acted because they knew and liked individual Jews. In many cases, the rescuers were simply helping friends or business associates. The accounts include the perspectives of men and women, city and rural residents, clergy and laypersons - even children who witnessed their parents efforts. These stories show that assistance from non-Jews was crucial, but also that Jews needed ingenuity, sometimes money, and most often what some survivors called simple good luck. Sixty years later, they invite each of us to ask what we might do today if we were at risk - or were asked to risk our lives to save others. Seller Inventory # AAC9780826218605

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