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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTION

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THE HEROIC RESCUERS

WRITTEN by ALEXANDER KIMEL

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Saving Jews was a dangerous proposition, in some whole families were killed when the Jews were discovered. Why did the "Righteous" take the chances? The motivation varied: some people did for humanitarian reasons, for profit, for political ideological reasons, religious convictions, for friendship. Besides hiding other forms of help were providing temporary shelter, providing forged identity papers, smuggling food into the ghettos, savings Jewish children, etc. Some people help Jews to rectify the dismal record of their compatriots. In 1953 the Israeli Government established the Yad Vashem Research Institute, whose main purpose is the research of all aspects of the Jewish tragedy, the Holocaust, and to identify all the Righteous Christian who through their unselfish actions saved Jews. To honor the Righteous, a carob tree is planted and named in gratitude. There presently about a two thousand trees planted, and considering the epic proportions of the tragedy, a very small number indeed. Although the number of Righteous is small. their actions and behavior is worth studying, to throw a light on human behavior under stressful conditions, and what is more important we can study the motivation of people table to think for themselves, and not be contaminated with the absurd spread of evil and violence.

DR. FELIX KERSTEN

Credited with saving about 60,000 Jews. Dr. Felix Kersten, was born in Estonia, lived in Finland and in Holland, where he was trained as physical therapist by Chinese doctor. Kersten, the man with the golden hands, became indispensable for the Heinrich Himmler, who suffered from violent stomach spasm. With the passage of time Dr. Kersten became Himmler's confidante, his Father Confessor, and tried to wean him away from Hitler's influence. Himmler confided in Kersten his concern about Hitler's health, confiding to him the fact of the syphilis affliction suffered by the Fuhrer. Kersten tried to persuade Himmler to remove Hitler from power, because a syphilitic is ruling Germany, to which Himmler replied: "He cannot move against Hitler , because of the oath of obedience sworn." In 1942 Himmler was sent to Finland to get extradition of the 3000 Finnish Jews, and under the pretext of visiting his adopted country, Kersten went with him. Behind Himmler's back he was coaching the Finnish Government how to deal with the German request. The Finnish Jews survived, thanks to Dr. Kersten's intervention. At the end of the war he persuaded Himmler to release of a few thousand inmates of the concentration camps. At the last days of the war in 1945, Kersten moved to Sweden where he met with the representatives of World Jewish Congress, and one of the most bizarre scenes developed; Himmler the brutal butcher of Germany, held a conference with a Norbert Masur, the representative of the Congress, in the bombed out Berlin Airport, with the background of explosions and the loudspeakers blasting away Goebbels speech congratulating Hitler at his last birthday. As a result of the conference, Himmler released a number of Jewish women from Ravensbruck, and discussed the possibility of transfer Jewish prisoners to neutral countries without Hitler's knowledge. \par }{\plain \par With the help of Walter Shellenberg, taking advantage of Himmler's anxieties, Kersten persuaded Himmler to sabotage Hitler's order to blow up all the extermination camps and kill all the surviving inmates, in the last days of the war. Himmler's orders were in turn sabotaged by his Chief aide Kaltenbrunner, but at least 60,000 inmates were saved.

RAOUL WALLENBERG

Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish noblemen, undertook a mercy mission in Hungary, and with unbelievable audacity, cunning and sheer bluffing saved tens of thousands Hungarian Jews. When Wallenberg arrived in Hungary the Jewish population shrunk from 400,000 to about 180,000. The resettlement was in full swing, Eichmann concentrated all his energies on "Solving "the Jewish problem".

Wallenberg taking advantage from the chaotic situation, started to issue Swedish passports to thousands of Jews, placing them under the protection of the Swedish flag. Under his influence similar measures were taken by other neutral countries like Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and even the Vatican and the Red Cross. Wallenberg fought valiantly for the lives of the Jews: he issued thousands of counterfeit passports, interfered with the Eichmann's rounding up of his victims, but his finest hour came at the time when the Russian troops were outside of Budapest, and the Hungarian Nazis-the Arrow Cross were preparing the liquidation of the Ghetto. Wallenberg got an audience with the commanding German General and threatened him to be tried as a war criminal, and the order was cancelled.

Unfortunately Wallenberg rescuing victims from on tyrant fell victim to another tyrant-Stalin. He was arrested by the Russian troops , and vanished in the prisons or labor camps of Siberia. The Russian never gave details about his whereabouts, claiming that he died a natural death. In 1981 the United States Congress awarded Wallenberg a honorary citizenship.

SCHINDLER.

Another giant man who saved hundreds of Jews was surprisingly a German industrialist Schindler, who arrived in Krakow an ancient town in Galizia and started an industrial enterprise, using Jewish slave labor on loan from the Gestapo. After realizing the tremendous drama he embarked on a single crusade of savings Jews. He employed hundreds of Jews under the disguise of armament specialists, buying the products on the black market and delivering them to the Wehrmacht. He was arrested on many occasions by the Gestapo, but released repeatedly. With his perseverance he achieved the impossible - the release of a transport of Jewish women from Auschwitz, the only such case in history.

OTTO BUSSE.

The director of a German factory in Bialystok, Otto Busse accompanied his Jewish workers into the ghetto, smuggling milk, butter, and potatoes past ghetto guards. During and after the August 1943 ghetto rebellion, Busse hid the fighters in his factory and, despite his pacifist views, supplied them with arms. He also gave his Jewish friends money and medicine, which enabled them to survive on the "Aryan side"...He found rooms for the Jewish fighters to live in and place to hide equipment, including arms, and Jewish escapees. He put his car, a rare commodity in those days, at the disposal of the Jewish refugees. Above all, he tried to find Jews who had escaped from the ghetto in order to hide them. He even wanted to save Jews from Majdanek.

PAUL GRINNINGER:

During the war Jewish refugees were denied entry into Switzerland. A Swiss border patrol officer, disregarded orders and allowed many Jews to cross illegally into Switzerland, and when it was discovered he was discharged from his position and lost his pension rights. He earned a modest living as a teacher's helper. In 1969 he was honored with a tree in Jerusalem.

SHIMAITE

The Lithuanians were in general the worst offenders when in came to persecution of Jews. Ann Shimaite, a gentle and noble soul, has proven the dangers of generalization. Anna Shimaite served as a contact and messenger for hundreds of Jews whom she did not know, carrying letters that for those Jews were of vital importance. She went to Gentile neighbors to ask for clothes and other valuable articles that the Jews left, and brought these things to their owners. Often she was cursed by these "good people " who had patiently waited for the liquidation of the owners of these things. Often these pieces of properties saved their owners from death by starvation. Her own rations cards Shimaite used only for potatoes and cabbage. All the rest: bread, marmalade, some margarine, cheese, she sent to the ghetto children, especially the orphans.

She wanted to save the cultural treasures of the Jews. She hid in her apartment all the books and writings that she managed to obtain. A few days before the liquidation of the ghetto, Shimaite took a ten-year-old girl, arranged Aryan papers for her through a lawyer, showing that the girl was her sister's daughter.

The forgery was discovered, and she was sentenced to death. Her friends paid a high ransom for her and she was released. She was tortured by the Gestapo in order to betray the hiding places of Jews. She told her story: "I prayed that I should not open my mouth at that time. I mixed up names and addresses, so I should not remember them. I do not believe in God, but I prayed with all much heart." Her prayer was heard: She did not reveal a thing.

CHUIBE SUGIHARA

Submitted by Ernest G. Hepper.

Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese consular official in Kaunas, Lithuania, risked his career by issuing Japanese transit visas to Jews against direct orders of his government. He saved the lives of over 2,178 Jews, who arrived in Kobe with transit visas good for only 7-15 days but the Japanese government permitted them to stay. Some 1,000 found havens in Palestine, Australia, South America and the USA. The rest were transported in fall of 1941 to Shanghai. For his action Sugihara was summarily discharged from his job.

JAN ZWARTENDIJK

Submitted by Ernest G. Hepper

Jan Zwartendijk, the Dutch Consul who issued 1400 so-called Curacao visas, knowing that he and his family had to return to Nazi occupied Holland. It was by sheer luck the Nazis did not find out that he was instrumental in saving some 2,000 Jews.

COLONEL WLADYSLAW KOWALSKI

Submitted by Adam V. Reed.

Colonel Kowalski hid Jews and applied his entire earnings toward assisting them. Colonel Kowalski would search among the basements of Warsaw looking for Jews, who had no place to hide. What a splendid example of a Brother's Keeper.

FRIEDRICH BORN

Submittted by Jean-Jacques Surbeck

A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Budapest, saved a thousand of Jews by issuing them Red Cross documents.

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