Every year, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust archive and museum in Israel, recognizes non-Jews who aided Jews during the Holocaust. In the midst of the terrible genocide, there were many instances of compassion. Unfortunately, they were far outnumbered, and at times those who hid Jews were betrayed by their own family or friends and neighbors for a cash reward or food.
Covering each country which was affected by the Holocaust underneath the Nazi regime, Martin Gilbert records the stories of those who have been recognized as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and the people they rescued, and in some cases, helped, but could not save. Stories from Poland, Belgium, Norway, and Italy, and Germany itself. Many Catholics and Protestants, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Muslims, and Baptists all hid Jews from the Nazis. There was even an instance when a girl his with Gypsies for a few months before liberation.
For the size and scope of this book, I feel like I should have so much more to say. but in The Righteous the stories speak for themselves. So many are encapsulated in four hundred plus pages of this book. There are photographs of some of the people who hid and those who hid them, some of them while living in hiding.
I liked the angle that it took in viewing The Holocaust. World War II holds great interest for me, but so much detail of the Holocaust is too horrific to read about. There was still some of those account in The Righteous, but fewer than you might expect. Some near escapes from death-pits, and brief accounts of the ghettos in Poland being cleared and their inhabitants slaughtered, along with a few others, were mentioned. What staggered me most of all was not these, however, but the numbers. The sheer size of the massacre was sobering. Of the 135,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania before the war, only 6,000 survived. But on the whole, it took a more positive view than most others I have read, focusing on the brave, kindhearted individuals who risked their lives to save God’s chosen people. I highly recommend it.