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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.
“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
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.
|List of Maps|
|1||Rescue in the East||1|
|5||Poland: The General-Government||101|
|8||Germany and Austria||181|
|9||Germans beyond Germany||198|
|10||Central Europe and the Balkans||230|
|11||Norway, Finland and Denmark||250|
|13||Belgium and Luxembourg||294|
|15||Italy and the Vatican||356|
|17||In the Camps and on the Death Marches||406|
|Maps of Places Mentioned in the Text||445|