Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Photographs

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pp. xi-xii

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xiv

I was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1937 into a Jewish family that had left Poland to seek a better life. In May 1940, in the wake of the German invasion, we fled to France and were constantly on the move, first in the Vichy zone and then in the Italian zone. Finally, in September 1943, we crossed illegally into Switzerland with the help of a Catholic priest, Simon Gallay, who was later honored as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the museum in Jerusalem and Israel’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. At the end of the war my family...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

To start, I would like to thank Haim Roet and his fellow private citizens’ team workers, the JRJ–Jewish Rescuers of Jews Committee in Jerusalem. Since 1995 they have worked diligently to highlight the role of Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust and to make it an integral part of the Yad Vashem and Israeli schools’ educational program. The JRJ team, to which I also belong, inspired me to do something to make the role of Jewish rescuers more generally known, and I thank them for this. Included in this committed team are Yuval Alpan, Chana Arnon, Margot Cohen...

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Introduction

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pp. xvii-xxiva

The above excerpts ought to put to rest the widely held assertion that all Jewish leaders and organizations within Nazi- dominated Europe wore blinders and did little or close to nothing to stem the Nazi avalanche on their brethren Jews. On the contrary, many took action against threats to the Jewish people during the Holocaust years. Many Jews and Jewish organizations saved thousands of their fellow Jews by superhuman efforts never before seen in Jewish history. How, then, can one explain the assumption that Jews, whether fully conscious...

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1. Germany and Austria: Outwitting the Nazis in Their Home Base

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pp. 1-22

Jews have lived in Germany since Roman days primarily in what is today the city of Cologne.1 Starting with the Crusaders in 1096, persecutions, pogroms, mass killings, and expulsions followed the Jews from one German region to another, and later the great Protestant religious reformer Martin Luther fulminated against the Jews and actually called for the utmost violence against them if they persisted in maintaining their separate religion.2 But at the dawn of the modern age, with the unification of Germany...

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2. Poland: Rescue in the Deadliest Place in Europe

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pp. 23-73

Poland had the dubious honor of being chosen by the Germans as the killing center of Europe’s Jews during the so- called Final Solution. The Holocaust claimed 6 million lives, of which close to 3 million were Polish Jews, about 10 percent of that country’s population.1 Jews had lived in Poland since the tenth century, and the population kept growing, exceeding 300,000 by the seventeenth century. Jewish life centered around two self- regulated organizations: the Kehillah and the Council of the Four Lands...

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3. Lithuania and Belarus: Getting Out in Time, Refuge in Forest Lairs

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pp. 74-99

As early as the eighth century, Jews lived in what later constituted Lithuania. A later and much larger influx of Jewish immigrants led to over 100,000 Jews at the start of World War I, when the country was part of the Russian Empire.1 By then Lithuanian Jewry had achieved a reputation for the high standard of its Talmudic academies. In the late eighteenth century, for instance, Rabbi Eliyah ben Solomon, known as the Vilna Gaon (1720– 97), who lived in Vilnius, was considered one of the greatest rabbinical scholars of his...

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4. Slovakia: Negotiating to Stop Deportations

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pp. 100-136

Until 1918 Slovakia was part of Hungary, and in the interwar years it was part of the Czechoslovak republic. Some 70 percent of the Slovak population was Roman Catholic, and the rest were of other Christian denominations as well as Jewish. In 1930, 136,000 Jews lived in Slovakia.1 On October 6, 1938, when Slovakia declared itself an autonomous region within the still existing Czecho-Slovak state (no longer called Czechoslovakia as one word), it was forced to cede some of its southern portions to Hungary. Later, in the so-called...

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5. Hungary: Zionist Diaspora Youth at Its Best, Some Debatable Rescue Undertakings

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pp. 137-182

It seems that there were ample warning signs coming from news of the mass extermination of Jewish communities across Hungary’s borders of what the Jews in Hungary could face in the event of a German takeover. Yet, strangely, Jewish leaders prepared no contingency plans if the unexpected happened and were at a total loss to direct, advise, and act when the impossible turned suddenly into the inevitable. Historians have since debated the reasons for this paralysis of Jewish leadership. It certainly had something...

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6. Croatia and Italy: Children on the Run

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pp. 183-200

Croatia was created in April 1941 as an independent state, but in reality it was a satellite of Nazi Germany, upon the dismemberment of Yugoslavia by the German invasion, and it included the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ante Pavelić, leader of the ruling Ustaša movement, headed a Fascist- type regime. His regime enacted antiJewish legislation, modeled after the German Nuremberg Laws, which first stripped Jews of their civil rights and later murdered them. Croatia’s population of 6.3 million consisted of 3.3 million Catholics, with the rest divided between Serbs, Muslims...

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7. France: The Many Who Helped Save Most of the Country’s Jews

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pp. 201-264

Jews lived in France since Roman days, when the country was known as Gaul. During the early Middle Ages, it was a center of rabbinics, with such notables as the famed biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi (Solomon son of Yitzhak), who lived in Troyes, but Jewish life was also dotted with long periods of persecution and expulsions. Later France changed course in its policy toward Jews as it became the first European country to grant them full emancipation in 1791, during the French Revolution.1 After World War I, tens of thousands...

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8. Belgium: Organized Self- Help, Stopping a Deportation Train

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pp. 265-286

Persecuted and evicted during the Middle Ages, Jews began to return to Belgium in the sixteenth century from Portugal in the form of marranos (Jews who had been forced to conceal their Judaism). During the eighteenth century, some northern European Jews also settled in Belgium. In 1830, when Belgium became an independent country, there were a little over 1,000 Jews there. The Jewish population kept growing, and on the eve of the German invasion on May 10, 1940, there were 66,000 Jews concentrated in four...

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9. The Netherlands: Pulling the Wool over the ss’s Eyes, Hiding and a Run across Borders

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pp. 287-315

The few Jews living in what is today the Netherlands during the Middle Ages were expelled but then allowed to return starting in the late sixteenth century. The first who came were fleeing religious persecution in Spain and Portugal, and they were followed a century later by northern and eastern European Jews, seeking to escape persecution there. In 1795 Jews were emancipated, and no further antisemitic violence is recorded. On the eve of the German invasion on May 10, 1940, there were 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands...

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10. Toward Palestine, the Land of Israel: Boat People on the Danube with the Connivance of the Nazis

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pp. 316-344

Up until the first two years of World War II, Nazi Germany dealt with “the Jewish question” through forced migration— either leave areas under German control voluntarily or be pressured to do so. Up until November 1941 the question of where the Jews should go did not concern the Nazis as long as they left. The Germans were not beyond aiding Jewish organizers of illegal immigration, although it was to be done covertly, so as not to embarrass countries with which it still maintained diplomatic relations.1 Adolf Eichmann, who started his...

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11. Switzerland: Outstretched Hands from Nearby

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pp. 345-369

Jews settled in Switzerland during the Middle Ages, but in small numbers. Before the modern period, the small population suffered various discriminations in the Swiss cantons, such as the call of the mayor of Zürich in 1634 “to drive the useless, godless swarm of Jews out of the city and its territory with hue and cry.” They were not admitted into guilds, and they were excluded from all artisan occupations. Even as late as 1787, the mayor of Bern issued a strict prohibition against trade by Jews.1 It was not until 1866 that Jews received full political rights. On the eve of World War II, the Jewish...

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12. Concentration Camps: Flight and Rescue from Hell on Earth and Challenging Himmler

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pp. 370-402

The extensive Nazi camps system included labor camps, transit camps, concentration camps, and extermination camps— the latter two being the most radical and horrific symbols of the Nazi system of oppression. Imprisoned in all these camps were political adversaries and people considered socially or racially undesirable, as well as tramps and beggars, dubbed “asocial elements,” and “habitual criminals,” gypsies, homosexuals, and convicted prostitutes.1 Beginning in the summer of 1938, and reaching a peak...

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13. England: A Rabbi and the Religious Obligation to Save

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pp. 403-413

Records show that Jews were settled in England as far back as 1070. But they were expelled in 1290 and only allowed to return in 1656. It was only much later, in 1829, that Jews were emancipated and in 1858 allowed to sit in Parliament. Due to the lack of anti- Jewish violence in Britain in the nineteenth century, the country acquired a reputation for religious tolerance, and it attracted a significant number of immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially those fleeing the Russian...

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14. United States: Organizational Assistance amid Conflicting Agendas

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pp. 414-452

Any account of Jewish self- help during the Holocaust would not be complete without mentioning the role of certain Jewish organizations operating in the United States (who vied with each other, sometimes in bad taste) to save their Jewish brethren in Europe. These include the so-called Bergson Group, the Vaad Hatzala, the Jewish Labor Committee, and foremost, the Joint Distribution Committee. Their stories will presently be told at some length. But first a few words on the U.S. policy regarding...

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Afterword

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pp. 453-458

In evaluating the significance of the Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, a few disturbing background factors need to be taken into consideration. First, there was the failure of Jewish leadership to properly assess the real nature of the Nazi onslaught on the Jewish people. Contrast this with the mostly unknown Jewish rescuers of the Holocaust period who were fully aware of the existential threat facing Jews and took action to try to stem this murderous avalanche. As stated by historian Yehuda Bauer, Jewish leaders did...

Notes

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pp. 459-548

Bibliography

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pp. 549-564

Index

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pp. 565-585

Image Plates

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