How did non-Jewish people try to save Jews from the horrors of Nazism?

1 Answer
Mar 16, 2016


Perhaps the bravest of the brave of the Second World War are those named "Righteous Among Nations"; a Post-War honour from Israel for non-Jews who saved Jewish lives in the war years.


The courage of a soldier, sailor or airmen is often honoured but it is often the courage of a moment -- going forward in an impossible situation; sacrificing oneself to save shipmates; or flying straight and level in an unforgiving thirty seconds. Those honoured as Righteous Among the Nations often had to sustain moral courage and nerve for years.

Some, like the Chinese diplomat Feng-Shan Ho or the Romanian diplomat Constantin Karadja ignored their orders of their superiors to provide visas to allow hundreds of Jews to escape before the Nazis had Europe completely in their grip; sacrificing their careers for principle.

Some, like the Lithuanian librarian Ona Šimaitė or the Belgian aid-worker Yvonne Nevejean, recognized what registration and the appearance of Ghettos meant -- and risked death penalties to divert and hide children from the tightening noose.

Once the reality of the Holocaust started to appear there were people like the German engineer Herman Friedrich Graebe (a witness to a massacre of 3,000 Jews) or the Polish schoolgirls Stefania and Helena Podgórski who hid Jews or gave them the chance to escape.

There were even some -- a few of whom got away with it -- who were open in their defiance. Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou hid thousands of Jews in Athens and dared the SS to execute him -- a fate that befell the Dutch police officer Dirk Boonstra, who refused to round up Jews in his village.

Some of the Righteous were stubborn contrarians, hiding Jews because the Germans wanted them. Some were compassionate. Certainly, all of them were courageous.