Under cover of the 2 nd World war for the sake of their new order the Nazis sought to destroy all the Jews of Europe. For the first time in history industrial methods were used for mass extermination of a whole people. 6 million were murdered including 1,500,000 children. This event is called the Holocaust.
Most rescuers started off as bystanders. In many cases this happened when they were confronted with the deportation or the killing of the Jews. Some had stood by in the early stages of persecution, when the rights of Jews were restricted and their property confiscated, but there was a point when they decided to act.
The price that rescuers had to pay for their action differed from one country to another. In Eastern Europe, the Germans executed not only the people who sheltered Jews, but their entire family as well. Notices warning the population against helping the Jews were posted everywhere. Generally speaking punishment was less severe in Western Europe, although there too the consequences could be formidable and some of the Righteous Among the Nations were incarcerated in camps and killed.
There were different degrees of help: some people gave food to Jews, thrusting an apple into their pocket or leaving food where they would pass on their way to work. Others directed Jews to people who could help them; some sheltered Jews for one night and told them they would have to leave in the morning. Only few assumed the entire responsibility for the Jews’ survival. It is mostly the last group that qualifies for the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.
So far Yad Vashem recognized Righteous from 44 countries and nationalities; there are Christians from all denominations and churches, Muslims and agnostics; men and women of all ages; they come from all walks of life; highly educated people as well as illiterate peasants; public figures as well as people from society's margins; city dwellers and farmers from the remotest corners of Europe; university professors, teachers, physicians, clergy, nuns, diplomats, simple workers, servants, resistance fighters, policemen, peasants, fishermen, a zoo director, a circus owner, and many more.
The main forms of help extended by the Righteous Among the Nations: Hiding Jews in the rescuers' home or on their property Providing false papers and false identities Smuggling and assisting Jews to escape The rescue of children
In early years, trees were planted by some of the Righteous or their families on the Mount of Remembrance. Today their names are engraved on the walls of the Garden of the Righteous. Trees, symbolic of the renewal of life, have been planted in and around the Yad Vashem site, in honor of those non-Jews who acted according by risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Plaques adjacent to each tree record the names of those being honored along with their country of residence during the war.
Persons recognized as a "Righteous Among the Nations" are awarded a specially minted medal bearing their name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of their names being added to the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids. Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.
She managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. Ultimately, she was caught, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, In a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
Names and Numbers of Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin, as of January 1, 2013 The numbers of Righteous are not necessarily an indication of the actual number of rescuers in each country, but reflect the cases that were made available to Yad Vashem.
Albania69Japan1 Armenia21Latvia135 Austria92Lithuania844 Belarus587Luxembourg1 Belgium1,635Macedonia10 Bosnia42Moldova79 Brazil2Montenegro1 Bulgaria20NetherlandsNetherlands**5,269 Chile1Norway50 China2Poland6,394 Croatia109Portugal2 Cuba1Romania60 Czech Republic109Russia186 DenmarkDenmark*22Serbia131 Ecuador1Slovakia534 El Salvador1Slovenia7 Estonia3Spain6 France3,654Sweden10 Georgia1Switzerland45 Germany525 Turkey1 Great Britain (Incl. Scotland) 19 Ukraine2,441 Greece315USA3 Hungary806Vietnam1 Italy563 Total: 24,811 * The Danish Underground requested that all its members who participated in the rescue of the Jewish community not be listed individually, but commemorated as one group. ** Includes two persons originally from Indonesia, but residing in the Netherlands
Seeing a display at the Imperial war museum of a sample of the number of shoes and gold rings that were collected in the concentration camps, brought home to me the number of people killed. Reading various accounts of rescues of Jews, such as hiding Jews in attics, gaining false papers and sending children abroad shows bravery and saved so many lives
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