Content posted August 25, 2012

Description of Jewish Rescue


Jewish rescuers are individuals and organizations who, on their own initiative, had been actively and directly involved in saving one or more fellow Jews during the period of 1933-1945.  They are individuals and organizations who provided vital funds, food, and medicine, Jews who warned Jews of the impending deportation, and those who negotiated with the Nazis to stop transports and who pressured free world governments to intercede. 

This Program will document Jews who worked behind enemy lines, in ghettoes, transit camps, concentration camps and death camps.  It includes those who operated in occupied and neutral territories. It will document Jews in the free world who raised and dispersed millions of dollars to save their fellow Jews.

Rescue of Jews took place in more than 42 countries, and in 36 geographic areas in the world. These include:  

Germany; Austria;

Nazi allied or collaborating countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Slovakia;

Nazi occupied countries, including Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union;

Neutral countries in Europe, including Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey; and

Palestine, North African and Middle Eastern countries;

The Free World, including Australia, Canada, Cuba, Great Britain, United States and others including the countries of Central and South America.

 

Examples of Jewish rescue include:

Aiding Jews in escaping from ghettos, transit camps, concentration camps and death camps. Maintaining protective family camps in the forests of Eastern Europe, e.g., Bielski brothers and other Jewish partisan groups.
Escorting people away from the Nazis and across international frontiers, e.g., French Jewish Scouts (EIF), Delegation for the Assistance of Immigrants (DELASEM), He-Halutz Budapest.
Hiding Jews, e.g., Jewish underground organizations: in France, e.g., Children's Aid Rescue Society (OSE) or Central Commission of Jewish Relief Organizations (CCOJA); in Poland, e.g., Council for Aid to Jews (Zegota); in Hungary, e.g., Section T and Department A, International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), or Belgium, e.g., Committee for the Protection of Jews in Belgium (CNDJ).
Impeding the arrest and deportation of Jews, e.g., in Belgium, burning lists of Jews before they get into Nazi hands.
Raising and providing funds and relief supplies necessary for sustaining life, such as food, medicine, etc., despite Nazi opposition and laws to the contrary, e.g., American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, HIAS-HICEM.
Providing false documents, such as passports, visas, identification cards, or ration cards, e.g., DELASEM, He Halutz.
Providing official documents such as visas, passports and ration cards, e.g., George Mandel Mantello, Recha Sternbuch, György Adam.
Negotiating for the release of all Jews of a country or the Jews of Europe, e.g., Rabbi Michael Weissmandl and Gisi Fleischman.
Warning the Jewish community and the world at large about the Holocaust, e.g., George Mandel Mantello, Alfred Wetzler and Rudolph Vrba.
Warning the world of the destruction of the Jewish community in Europe, e.g., Peter H. Bergson, Recha and Isaac Sternbuch and Gerhardt Riegner.
Putting persistent pressure on free governments to launch major rescue operations, e.g., Peter H. Bergson (Hillel Kook) and his rescue group in the United States. This resulted in the creation of the War Refugee Board (WRB) in the United States.
Lobbying free governments to grant safe haven to Jews for the duration of the war, e.g., Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld for the UK to allow Jews to find haven in Mauritius and later in all of the British Empire (except Palestine, which the UK would not have agreed to).
Rescuing Jews while acting as a government official, e.g., Ambassador Steinhardt (USA), Consul Julius Kuhl (Poland), Consul Solomon Ezrati (Spain), Ira Hirschmann (USA), George Mandel Mantello (El Salvador), György Adam (Vatican).

The Project will document Jewish organizations that were active in the rescue of Jews.  These include both organizations that worked inside Nazi occupied territory, such as the Bratislava Working Group, the Relief Organization for Jewish Refugees Abroad (Recha and Isaac Sternbuch), Va’ad Hatsala, Zionist youth undergrounds, Mossad Aliyah Bet, Perl Transport (Af-Al-Pi, “Despite Everything”), Delegation for the Assistance of Immigrants (DELASEM), Zegota (Council for Aid to Jews), Refugee Aid Committee in Romania, the Mouvement de Jeunesse Sioniste (MJS; Zionist Youth Movement), and Eclaireurs Israelite de France (EIF).

The Project will also include organizations that operated outside of Nazi occupied territories.  Such organizations as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS-ICA-EMIGDIRECT; HICEM), the Bergson Group (Hillel Kook) and the Rescue Committee of the United States Orthodox Rabbis.

 


   

 


Fact Sheet:  Jewish Rescue

Nearly 2,700 names of Jewish rescuers have been researched and collected. These represent individuals from 42 different countries throughout the world. This includes 16 occupied Nazi territories. Some rescuers operated in more than one country or geographic area.

Two hundred thirteen were murdered as a direct consequence of their activities of rescuing Jews. 71 Jews managed to escape imprisonment, 29 were tortured, and 89 were deported to concentration camps most were murdered there.

 

Total number of Jewish rescuers listed

2,627

Arrested and Escaped

71

Tortured

29

Deported to Concentration Camps

89

Murdered

213 (8%)

 

                     

 

 

Jewish Rescuers Murdered in Nazi Occupied Countries

Number of Jewish Rescuers Murdered

Number of Jewish Rescuers

Percent of Total Jewish Rescuers Murdered

Poland

34

85

40%

France

51

314

16%

Russia

4

28

14%

Hungary

47

858

5%

Germany

4

56

7%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This fact sheet is based on the data we have collected.  The names of Jewish rescuers come from primary and secondary printed sources.  There is no official list published by any institution, other than the one you see here.

 


 

 


Individual Jewish Rescuers

Number of Jews Rescuers Operating Behind Enemy Lines: 1,788 (68% of total)

Jewish Rescuers in Hungary

          Working with Carl Lutz and Swiss Legation: 500+

          Working with Raoul Wallenberg and Swedish Legation: 331

Number of Jews Operating in Neutral Europe: 229 (9% of total)

Number of Jews Operating from the Free World:  610 (23% of total)

Number of Jewish Diplomats: 10

 


Jewish Rescue and Relief Organizations

Number of Jewish Rescue and Relief Organizations:  529

          Behind lines:  TBD

          Neutral countries:  TBD

          Free world:  TBD

The Most Amount of Money Expended by a Jewish Organization:  $70,000,000 by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Number of Jews Rescued by the JDC: 400,000+

Number of Jews Rescued by the War Refugee Board, which was almost entirely supported by the JDC: 200,000+

Total Funding of War Refugee Board by JDC: 90%+

 


Number of Jews Rescued

Number of Jews Who Emigrated or Escaped from Nazi Occupied Territories: 811,000 (source: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee archives)

Number of Jews Rescued by Jews: unknown

Number of Major Jewish Rescue Attempts and Initiatives:  TBD

 


Percentage of Jews who Survived by Country

Jews of Bulgaria – 100% (50,000; not including the Territory of Thrace and Macedonia)

Jews of Denmark – 99.97% (7,900 survived)

Jews of Finland – 99.9%

Jews of Italy – 80% (Jews of Rome – 90%; 7,000 survived)

Jews of France – 80% (250,000 survived)

Jews of Luxembourg – 80%

Jews of Germany – 75-80%

Jews of Austria – 70%

Percentage of Jews who survived in Budapest, Hungary: 62% (124,000 survived from population of 200,000; this was due largely to more than 830 Jewish rescuers, many of whom worked with neutral diplomats)

 


Geographic Locations of Rescue

Number of Axis Nations: 8

Number of Neutral Countries: 4

Number of German Occupied Nations: 16

Number of Allied Nations: 30

 


 

 

 


Jewish Rescuers by Country

* Denotes Occupied Country

Axis Nations

Austria

70

Germany

56

Hungary

830

Italy

39

Japan

3

Romania

68

Slovakia

144

Russia/USSR

28

Total

1238

 

Neutral Countries

Portugal

17

Spain

6

Sweden

18

Switzerland

51

Total

92

 

Allied Nations

Argentina

6

Belgium*

37

Bolivia

2

Brazil

2

Bulgaria

16

Canada

18

Chile

2

China

14

Colombia

1

Costa Rica

1

Cuba

12

Czechoslovakia

72

Denmark*

19

Dominican Republic

1

England

13

Finland

9

France*

314

Greece*

15

India

6

Iran

6

Iraq

1

Luxembourg*

1

Netherlands*

16

Panama

4

Peru

1

Poland*

85

Turkey

34

Uruguay

3

USA

555

Yugoslavia*

22

Total

1288


   


Jewish Rescuers by Country (Sorted by total number)

* Denotes Occupied Country

Axis Nations

Hungary

830

Slovakia

144

Austria

70

Romania

68

Germany

56

Italy

39

Russia/USSR

28

Japan

3

Total

1238

 

Neutral Countries

Switzerland

51

Sweden

18

Portugal

17

Spain

6

Total

92

 

Allied Nations

USA

555

France*

314

Poland*

85

Czechoslovakia*

72

Belgium*

37

Turkey

34

Yugoslavia*

22

Denmark*

19

Canada

18

Bulgaria

16

Netherlands*

16

Greece*

15

China

14

England

13

Cuba

12

Finland

9

Argentina

6

India

6

Iran

6

Panama

4

Uruguay

3

Bolivia

2

Brazil

2

Chile

2

Colombia

1

Costa Rica

1

Dominican Republic

1

Iraq

1

Luxembourg*

1

Peru

1

Total

1288

 


 

 

 


Frequently Asked Questions about Jewish Rescue

 

Q:  Isn’t there any institution or museum that already honors Jews who rescued Jews?

A:  No.  There are no institutions or museums that currently honor Jewish rescuers.  Museums are beginning to document Jewish resistance in the Holocaust.  In April 1968, Yad Vashem had a conference called “Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust.”  A book was published in 1971 with proceedings from the conference.  The conference was organized by Jewish partisan fighters, several of whom were involved in rescue.

Some Holocaust museums and institutions have expressed an interest in the Jewish rescuer.

 

Q:  Why hasn’t this topic been documented before?

A:  A few books have been written in which Jewish rescue is described.  No book has ever been written entirely dedicated to the topic.  An important book was published in 2007 entitled “Brothers for Resistance and Rescue: The Underground Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary during World War II,” by David Gur.  This book has been used to include many of the names of Hungarian rescuers.  In addition, a small monograph was published in Israel in 2004 (in Hebrew).

 

Q:  Aren’t Jews obligated to help Jews?  Why should they be especially rewarded for something they are obligated to do?

A:  There are a number of biblical and Talmudic sources that describe Jewish obligations to save a fellow Jew.  However, there are biblical injunctions against risking your life while saving another Jew.  In fact, a Jew is not obligated to risk his life to save a Jew.  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recognizes this.  The IDF awards Israeli soldiers several medals for courage.  They are the gold, silver and bronze medals.  The medals indicate level of danger and sacrifice in combat.  These medals are often awarded for saving other Jewish soldiers.

 

Q:  Are Jewish partisans and ghetto fighters considered rescuers?

A:  Several Jewish partisan organizations rescued Jews as part of their mission.  Ghetto fighters also helped fellow Jews.  For example, the Bielski Brothers partisan unit saved more than 1,000 Jews.

 

Q:  How many Jews rescued their fellow Jews?

A:  This number is unknown.  We have, however, created a database of 2,627 names of Jewish rescuers.

 

Q:  How many Jewish organizations were involved in the rescue of fellow Jews?

A:  529.  These groups were located all over the world.  They include rescue organizations, relief organizations.  They include many of the Zionist youth organizations.  Some organizations, like the Council for Aid to Jews (Zegota) in Poland, had both Jewish and non-Jewish members.

 

Q:  What are the sources for compiling a list of Jewish rescuers and Jewish rescue organizations?

A:  More than 100 books and numerous articles have been cited for the list of Jewish rescuers.  Lists of Jewish rescuers from various historical archives have been researched.

At least two published sources have been cited in each individual case of a Jewish rescuer or rescue organization.

 

Q:  What if there is no written information to verify a Jewish rescuer’s actions?  Will you accept oral testimony of an eyewitness? 

A:  Yes, however these testimonies will be cross-checked with historians and specialists in the field.

 

Q:  How will you distinguish between levels of risk when honoring Jewish rescuers?  Wasn’t there a significantly greater level of risk for Jews who served in Nazi-occupied territory vs. Jews in the free world?

A:  Yes, the level of risk was very different.  Jews who rescued their fellow Jews in Nazi Germany or Nazi-occupied territories were at very high risk for being arrested, tortured and murdered.  Jews who operated in neutral Europe were at less risk or danger.  Jews in the free world were at no risk for life or safety.

 

Q:  How can you honor a Jew who risked his life and at the same time honor those who were at little or no risk?

A:  All Jews who saved Jews should be honored for this activity.  It is important for us to create a comprehensive list so that future generations can know that Jews were not just passive victims during the Shoah.

The Jewish Rescuers Project has created 5 categories to assess the level of risk of a Jewish rescuer.  These categories are numbered 1-5.  They are as follows:

Category 1:  Jews who operated in Germany or German allied countries, which include Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia.  German-occupied territories, including Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union.

Category 2:  Jews who operated in neutral Europe, including the countries of Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Palestine, North Africa, Sweden, Switzerland.  Jews who operated in Japanese-controlled territory, including Shanghai, China.  These areas were in danger of being occupied or overrun by German forces.

Category 3:  Jews who operated in the free world, including Great Britain, United States of America, Canada, Australia, Cuba, Central America and South America.  Jews who were active in lobbying governments and influencing world opinion in favor of rescue.

Category 4:  Jews who were involved in significant fundraising and organizing efforts to provide rescue and relief for Jews.

Category 5:  Jews who served on boards of directors of Jewish rescue and relief organizations and contributed their influence or funds to Jewish rescue efforts.

 

Q:  How many Jewish rescuers are still living?

A:  We don’t know for sure, but we assume that less than 10% are still living.  Perhaps there are 300 still living.

 

Q:  If the Jewish rescuer is no longer living, to whom will the honor be presented?

A:  We will present any commemorative or memorial awards to their families and descendants.

 

Q:  Will honoring Jewish rescuers in any way take away from recognizing the horror and the extent of the Holocaust?

A:  Holocaust historians and museum curators do not believe so.  The important idea is to recognize the extent to which Jews resisted the Nazis and participated in their own rescue.  Jewish rescue shows that the Nazis were not all-powerful and could be effectively resisted.  It also gives hope that in evil times, people can effectively resist.

 

Q:  There was competition between Jewish organizations to save Jews.  In some cases, several organizations took credit for the same rescue action.  Also, some Jewish organizations competed with or, in some cases, may have impeded the rescue actions of other organizations.  How should this be dealt with.

A:  There were many organizations that were working on the same rescue action.  They should be as accurately as possible give credit for their work.

 

Q:  Some Jewish organizations, like the Jewish Councils in Europe, were able to save some lives and caused the death of other Jews.  How should this be addressed?

A:  Documenting Jewish rescue in the Shoah is a complex task in some cases.  Nonetheless, we would be remiss if we allowed the complexity of the task deterred us from recognizing the enormous contributions of the many individuals who risked so much to help their fellow Jews.  In some cases, Jews were forced to make terrible decisions to save lives.  Jews should not be further victimized for having been forced to make these decisions. 

 

Q:  How did the idea of recognizing Jewish rescue come up?

A:  This idea came up during the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, in 2000.  The idea arose during the exhibition of the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit.  The exhibit depicted several Jewish rescuers who were diplomats.  Haim Roet and exhibit curator Eric Saul discussed the idea of establishing a program that would honor Jewish rescuers.

 


 

 

 


Quotes about Jewish Rescue

 

“Whoever saves a single soul, it is as if they had saved the whole world.”

- the Talmud

 

“Every Jew, who survived in occupied Europe is a kind of itinerant miracle, the result of incredible endeavours and struggles...”

- Dr. A. Leon Kubowitzki, head of rescue department, World Jewish Congress

 

“Do not stand idly by when your brother’s blood is being shed.”

- Deuteronomy

 

“In 16 occupied European countries… there was not one with Jews living in it in which there was no Jewish Underground and Jewish resistance… At times the Jewish partisans were the initiators of the resistance, among the founders of the partisan units and among the creators of the partisan centres.

In addition to the common purpose of the general Underground, namely war against the Nazis, the Jewish partisan had two specifically Jewish objectives-vengeance and rescue.”

- S. Cholavsky, Jewish Partisan

 

“Despite the potential wealth of sources on spiritual and moral heroism. I doubt whether we shall ever be able to fully encompass this infinitely tragic and profoundly noble chapter of recent Jewish history. Some of the episodes are totally lacking in sources, so that we can state in advance today that we shall never know the entire story. However, precisely because of this we are obliged to make every effort to collect whatever can still be obtained today-because tomorrow may be too late, We have already lost a great deal of time… and we must now proceed as rapidly and thoroughly as possible." 

- N. Blumenthal

 

“We wanted the individual Jew, when exposed to persecution, to feel that he could find refuge in the protective mantle of the Jewish community”

- Rabbi Leo Baeck, Jewish Leader, Berlin, Germany

 

“It is incumbent on Jewish historiography, for the sake of historical truth and for the sake of the heritage that our generation will bequeath, to transmit to those who will follow us not only awareness of the destruction that is one side but also, in its full dimension, awareness of the heroic struggle of the Jewish People as a whole, the separate communities and groupings, and every individual in those days.”

- Yitzchak Zuckerman, Warsaw Ghetto Fighter

 

“Every spectacular incidence of evil will be balanced by thousands of acts of kindness.  We have a duty…to record and honor…these kindnesses when…evil threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior.”

- Stephen Jay Gould

 

“The struggle for life under the conditions of the Holocaust period expressed itself in various ways. Bunkers in cellars and in attics. Virtual ‘Underground cities’ were built in order to elude the nets of the murderers during the Aktions. Round the clock watches were organized in ghettos in order to relay information on impending danger. Food was smuggled into the ghettos; mutual aid organizations were set up; war was waged against starvation; clothing and shoes were provided (‘No one shall go barefoot in the ghetto’); action was taken to help the aged, the children and the infirm; attempts were organized to flee across the borders to Switzerland, Spain, etc.”

- Meir Dworzecki, Holocaust Historian

 


 

 

 

 


Institutional Support and Cooperation

 

World Jewish Congress (WJC), New York

Michael Schneider, President

 

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives, New York

Sherry Hyman, former Archivist

 

Hebrew Immigrant Aid and Sheltering Society (HIAS) Archives, YIVO, New York

 

Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance (SWC/MOT), Los Angeles

Liebe Geft, Museum Director

 

YIVO, Institute for Jewish Research, New York

Dr. Carl Rheins, former Executive Director

 

Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, New York

Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim, Chairman

Diane Black, Director, Archives and Research

Mary Mochary, Board of Directors

Flora Major, Board of Directors

 

 

Special Thanks

György Adam, Jewish rescuer, Office of the Nunciatura, Budapest 1944-1945

Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim, Chairman, Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States

Diane Blake, Archivist, Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States

Amy Fiske, PhD, ISRAH board of directors, clinical psychologist

Betty Fiske, ISRAH board of directors

Solly Ganor, Holocaust survivor, author

Pola Ganor, Holocaust survivor

David Gur, Hashomer Hatzair, Halutzim, Budapest 1944-1945, author, Jewish rescuer

Becky Kook, PhD, daughter of Peter H. Bergson (Hillel Kook)

Flora Major, board of directors of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States

Enrico Mantello, son of Jewish Salvadoran Consul George Mandel Mantello

Genya Markon, Former Curator, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust survivor

Mary Mochary, daughter of Alexander Kasser, Righteous diplomat, and Elizabeth Kasser (Raoul Wallenberg's interpreter)

Peter Rosenblatt, nephew of Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt

Louise von Dardel, niece of Raoul Wallenberg

Benjamin Zucker, Holocaust survivor, author