The Other Schindlers : Why Some People Chose to Save Jews in the Holocaust Hardback
Thanks to Thomas Keneally's book Schindler's Ark, and the film based on it, Schindler's List, we have become more aware of the fact that, in the midst of Hitler's extermination of the Jews, courage and humanity could still overcome evil.
While 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime, some were saved through the actions of non-Jews whose consciences would not allow them to pass by on the other side, and many are honoured by Yad Vashem as `Righteous Among the Nations' for their actions. As a baby, Agnes Grunwald-Spier was herself saved from the horrors of Auschwitz by an unknown official, and is now a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
She has collected together the stories of thirty individuals who rescued Jews, and these provide a new insight into why these people were prepared to risk so much for their fellow men and women.
With a foreword by Sir Martin Gilbert, one of the leading experts on the subject, this is an ultimately uplifting account of how some good deeds really do shine in a weary world.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 228 pages
- Publisher: The History Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 26/04/2010
- Category: The Holocaust
- ISBN: 9780752457062
- Paperback from £8.89
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Review by john257hopper
This book looks at a wide range of cases of people across many European countries who risked their freedom and lives to shelter Jews from the Nazis, or to assist them to escape to a safer country. It examines their differing motives, but many of these distinctions seem fairly arbitrary; essentially, these people were in almost all cases acting out of humanitarian motives, either due to a principled opposition to persecution of a whole people, or to persecution of individual Jews they or their families had know for years. In some cases, this humanitarian motive was supported by having been brought up in a religious background and acquiring a strong and positive Christian ethos of love thy neighbour. Some cases are more ambiguous, though, including of course Schindler himself who had showed no great humanitarian impulse before the war (indeed, he welcomed the Nazis initially) and didn't particularly do so after the war either. Finally, there was a very tiny number who did it for the money the rescued or their families paid them - it should be remembered that even those rescuers, though, while their actions seem sordid, were still saving lives and risking their own lives by sheltering those Jews.The individual stories concern a wide variety of rescuers from farmers or workers sheltering an individual child or old person, to diplomats such as the Portuguese and Chinese consul-generals who incurred the wrath of their governments by issuing countless visas and saving between them over 40,000 lives. There are stories of great heroism and courage, nearly always dismissed by the rescuers themselves as just something they thought anyone might do; but they were wrong in this respect as most people did not do this, and the stories contain incidences of treachery and selfishness that are chilling. But then, living in a stable democracy, can we really judge how we or are families, friends and acquaintances might behave in a similar situation? I don't think we really can.The book concludes with some interesting reflections around repeated patterns of both good and bad human behaviour in the more recent genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in 2003; and in much smaller events, such as the murder of Richard Whelan on a bus in 2005, where only one other passenger on the bus tried to help him, even after the killer had fled, while the others melted away or just watched. Sobering reflections on the human condition and our reactions in an extreme situation. 5/5