Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story

Overview

Bachner, a Polish Jew, was trapped in Warsaw when the Germans overran the country in September, 1939. He, his wife, and his parents moved into the Warsaw ghetto. Speaking fluent German and possessing an engineering degree from a German university, Bachner posed as an Aryan and was eventually able to get a job heading a crew of construction workers. He hired dozens of Polish Jews and supplied them with false identity papers, thus saving them from death.

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Overview

Bachner, a Polish Jew, was trapped in Warsaw when the Germans overran the country in September, 1939. He, his wife, and his parents moved into the Warsaw ghetto. Speaking fluent German and possessing an engineering degree from a German university, Bachner posed as an Aryan and was eventually able to get a job heading a crew of construction workers. He hired dozens of Polish Jews and supplied them with false identity papers, thus saving them from death.

The authors interviewed Bachner in 1983, along with the Jews Bachner saved and their families. Their book adds to a growing body of evidence that refutes the idea that Jews went to their deaths without resistance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1941, Wilhelm Bachner, a Polish Jewish engineer, escaped the Warsaw ghetto and, posing as a gentile, landed a job as supervisor with a German architectural firm. Armed with a pass that enabled him to enter and leave the ghetto as an Aryan, he rescued 50 Polish Jews, supplying them with false identity papers and work permits. He assigned some to his firm's work crews; others were given office jobs; still others he placed in hiding. His remarkable story unfolds with the rich texture of a novel in this meticulously researched chronicle. Bachner, who survived harrowing encounters with Nazi SS interrogators, helped his wife and his father escape the Warsaw ghetto, but his mother, brother and sister were swallowed up in the Nazi death machine. Oliner, project director of Humboldt State University's Altruistic Personality and Pro-Social Behavior Institute in California, and Lee, a Humboldt political scientist, interviewed Bachner and his wife in 1983; the couple had emigrated to California in 1951 they both died in 1991. Drawing on interviews with relatives, the people rescued and archival research, the authors add a stirring chapter to documented Jewish resistance to the Holocaust. Photos. Dec.
Kirkus Reviews
The dramatic, if overly dramatized, account of a "Jewish Oskar Schindler" who rescued many Jews during the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivor and scholar Oliner (The Altruistic Personality, 1988) and political scientist Lee (both at Humboldt State University) have turned their Holocaust research and survivor interviews into a fairly engaging narrative. The book's protagonist is Wilhelm Bachner, a German-educated Polish Jew who successfully masquerades as a gentile Pole. Using his position as an engineer for a firm that does vital repair work in Nazi factories, Bachner is able to hire, hide, and save over 50 Jews during the war. A good fraction of those rescued are Bachner's own family, so that his wife is passed off as his mistress and his father is recast as the company cook. All of Bachner's machinations fail to save his younger brother, Bruno, who perishes in a death camp, and the plot is constantly thickened by SS bloodhounds looking for fleeing Jews. Bachner repeatedly bluffs and outwits the Germans. On one occasion, following a Bachner tirade, the cowed SS even apologizes for disrupting his work. The plot is a page-turner, but Oliner and Lee should have hired a scriptwriter to upgrade the re-created dialogue. Holocaust history, including the facts and figures, is unobtrusively inserted into the narrative, as when the firm encounters work crews from forced labor camps or trainloads of Jews headed east for extermination. There is also a bit of comic relief provided, such as when one of the disguised Jews becomes a "prisoner of love to a rotund Ukrainian" woman. A happy ending includes Bachner's incredulous supervisor being told, as liberation nears, just how many of his workers were Jews.

The book is a noteworthy addition to the literature on Holocaust rescuers, despite its mediocre adoption of fictional techniques to render historical events.

From the Publisher

"...a noteworthy addition to the literature on Holocaust rescuers..." — Kirkus Reviews

"...the authors add a stirring chapter to documented Jewish resistance to the Holocaust."
Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897336017
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/18/2010
  • Pages: 277
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel Oliner is a Professor of Sociology at Humbolt State University in Arcata, California and Founder and Director of the Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute.

Kathleen Lee is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Humbolt State University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Foreword xi

Preface xiii

1 The Devices of the Wicked 17

2 The Yoke of Foreigners 33

3 Out of Captivity 51

4 The Snares of Evildoers 69

5 Harbor of Sorrows 89

6 Deliverance and Destruction 113

7 Hope in the East 137

8 Hidden in the Shadows 159

9 The Work of Their Own Hands 183

10 The Requital of the Wicked 209

11 Survivors of Zion 231

Epilogue 253

Glossary 257

Notes 261

Bibliography 269

Index 271

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