The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

Overview

Having chronicled the horrors of Nazi-dominated Europe in major works on the Holocaust and the Second World War, the distinguished historian Sir Martin Gilbert now turns his attention to the subject of altruism in that period. In this extraodinary volume, Gilbert re-creates the stories of hundreds of non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to help save Jews from deportation and death. Drawing on twenty-five years of original research, Gilbert takes us through Germany and every occupied country from...
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The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

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Overview

Having chronicled the horrors of Nazi-dominated Europe in major works on the Holocaust and the Second World War, the distinguished historian Sir Martin Gilbert now turns his attention to the subject of altruism in that period. In this extraodinary volume, Gilbert re-creates the stories of hundreds of non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to help save Jews from deportation and death. Drawing on twenty-five years of original research, Gilbert takes us through Germany and every occupied country from Norway to Greece, from the Atlantic to the Baltic, where the Righteous, by their lifesaving actions, challenged Nazi barbarism. The Greek Orthodox Princess Alice, who hid Jewish families in her Athens home; a Polish woman, "the Angel of Lvov," who worked closely with the Roman Catholic Church to obtain false certificates of baptism for those in imminent danger; and Albanian Muslims, who disguised Jews as their own brethren in order for them to be saved, are just a few of the Righteous whom we encounter within these pages. Others were priests and nuns, teachers and diplomats, colleagues and neighbors: above all, "ordinary" men and women, decent human beings. According to Jewish tradition, "Whoever saves one life; it is as if he saved the entire world." The Righteous of Martin Gilbert's book certainly upheld that ideal, as they inspire us with their righteous acts to this day.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world." This ancient Jewish saying is echoed by Sir Martin Gilbert's The Righteous, a tribute to thousands of non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. The bittersweet fruit of a quarter century of labor, this book recounts the heroic acts (not always successful) of ordinary people during a time of institutionalized madness. Mere summary can not convey the book's cumulative power.
From the Publisher
“[The Righteous] deserves to be read side by side with the studies claiming that there were no rays of light, no manifestations of humanity and goodness in those dark days.” —The New York Times

“A timely [book] for a new century . . . The questions raised in this book lie at the heart of our humanity.” —The Guardian

“This is a book that should, that must, be read.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The New York Times
In brief, this is a book that, with all its merits, leaves many questions open. One should be grateful for Mr. Gilbert's Herculean labors, but for a definitive work on this very important topic we shall have to wait a bit longer. — Walter Laqueur
Publishers Weekly
Books have been written about individuals who risked their own safety to aid Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet this comprehensive examination by noted historian Gilbert (The First World War, etc.), recounted largely through first-person accounts by the Jews they rescued, is an important contribution. These thumbnail sketches of rescuers, their methods and, in some cases, the horrors they endured as a result of their courageous choices haven't previously been gathered in one volume. The result of 25 years of research sparked by witnessing Oskar Schindler's 1974 funeral procession in Jerusalem, Gilbert's country-by-country examination reveals as much about quiet dissent in Nazi-occupied Europe as it does about the human spirit. "For anyone who is honoured today for saving Jewish lives, there were ten or more who did the same," says one rescuer. In Vilna, a German officer, Maj. Karl Plagge, protected Jews from 1939 until 1944, by employing them in his Motor Vehicle Repair Park. In Germany, a young slave laborer, her feet frozen from working outdoors in the snow, was given a pair of shoes by an elderly couple in a remote wooded area; she never learned their names. The number of accounts is overwhelming, and fitting them all in one volume requires that each, to a degree, be given short shrift. But the very fact that there were so many tales of courage is reason to take heed of this heartening aspect of one of history's darkest moments. 32 pages of b&w photos, 20 maps. (Feb. 4) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Mining the extensive archives of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial Authority, along with memoirs and personal reminiscences, Gilbert (Univ. of London; The First World War) narrates the story of those gentiles acknowledged by Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations." Why some people chose to perform heroic deeds during the Holocaust often varied according to local circumstances. One of the book's virtues is Gilbert's ability to set the local context briefly before recounting the personal stories, thus keeping the human dimension paramount. A major criticism of "rescue studies" is that rescuers were in the minority; clearly, had there been more righteous, there would have been more survivors. Although Gilbert acknowledges that the sheer weight of Nazi power, along with the depth of local collaboration, certainly ensured that the number of rescuers would remain small, he justly claims that this makes their acts all the more worthy of study. Interestingly, in the chapter on Italy, Gilbert avoids delving into the intense controversy about the role of the papacy. Although Gilbert provides some analysis of the rescuers' motivations, the book is more descriptive than analytical. Still, it is recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/02.]-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Kirkus Reviews
Sprawling study by noted English historian Gilbert (A History of the Twentieth Century, 1999, etc.) celebrates hundreds of men and women who saved Jewish lives during the years of the Shoah.

These "Righteous Among Nations," the Yad Vashem, were comparatively rare in WWII-era Europe, where homegrown fascists, nationalists, criminals, and ordinary people with scores to settle visited murder upon the Jews or stood by as it was committed en masse. Gilbert gathers some truly remarkable stories of the brave deeds of the Righteous: poor Polish farmers, for instance, who hid Jewish families under barn floors or in attics; Italian priests and nuns who disguised refugees as monks and novices (as in Assisi, where one hiding place was "the only convent in the world with a kosher kitchen"); British prisoners of war who smuggled Jews scheduled for annihilation into their own camps, keeping them fed and hidden for months at a time at grave risk to their own safety. These stories are marvelous moral lessons, of course, and it may seem churlish to complain about Gilbert’s approach to relating those exemplary deeds, which, sad to say, is eminently respectful but not especially interesting. He piles anecdote atop anecdote with little discrimination and even less commentary, save at the very end, when he briefly considers the various motives the Righteous may have had in doing their good deeds: hatred of the Nazis, religious devotion, simple human decency, and so on. In the end, the catalogue-like narrative is just a little numbing and more than a little repetitive; it would have been useful to have fewer stories with more consideration of what they mean.

Less memorable than other studies of thesubject.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805062618
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 977,860
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

One of Britain's most distinguished historians, Sir Martin Gilbert was knighted in 1995. Among his many books are The Holocaust (0-8050-3848-7), The First World War (0-8050-4734-4), The Second World War (0-8050-1788-7), Churchill: A Life (0-8050-2396-8), and The Boys (0-8050-4403-5).

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Read an Excerpt

From The Righteous:

"What were the motives of those who tried to save Jews from deportation and death?" This question is raised with every account of rescue, as the reader, like the historian, wonders whether they would have behaved in such a courageous manner. First and foremost, the Righteous of this book chose to act; theirs was a deliberate decision to behave in a civilized, humane manner, rather than to do nothing, or to refuse to be involved, or to take the route of barbarism.

In the circumstances of a combination of Nazi rule, SS power and Gestapo terror, inaction motivated by fear cannot be belittled. Those who turned against the tide of terror were all the more remarkable. "We did what we had to do"; "Anyone would have done the same"-the words of many rescuers mask the courageousness of the course they chose, knowing it to be full of danger, often the danger of execution of their families as well as themselves. Yet these were not foolhardy, rash or intemperate people; most of them made their choice calmly, deliberately and with full realization of the risks, risks that they faced, and took, for months and even years.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Preface
Acknowledgements
1 Rescue in the East 1
2 Eastern Galicia 34
3 Vilna 75
4 Lithuania 84
5 Poland: The General-Government 101
6 Warsaw 128
7 Western Galicia 165
8 Germany and Austria 181
9 Germans beyond Germany 198
10 Central Europe and the Balkans 230
11 Norway, Finland and Denmark 250
12 France 260
13 Belgium and Luxembourg 294
14 Holland 320
15 Italy and the Vatican 356
16 Hungary 381
17 In the Camps and on the Death Marches 406
Afterword 433
Maps of Places Mentioned in the Text 445
Bibliography 463
Illustration Credits 479
Index 481
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