In a piece at Engage on the sociology of anti-Semitism Bob Fine writes that it has become 'almost a fashion to say that we go on too much about the Holocaust'. There are fashions one must do one's best to combat.
Soon after the festival for the man whose death the Christian world has remembered for nearly 2,000 years seems as good a time as any to point out that Jews and others who want to remember what happened in Europe just a few decades ago aren't overdoing anything. In this remembering we should make sure to reserve a place also for those who did what they could to save others in peril and thereby uphold something of the good name of the human species.
Michail Zaslawski [is] the sole survivor of one of the biggest crimes committed by Romania during World War II - the Odessa, Ukraine massacre of Oct. 22-24, 1941. In this short stretch of time, the Romanian army, which was occupying the area as an ally of Nazi Germany, rounded up some 23,000 Jews from around the city and killed them, shooting many and burning others alive in warehouses. Soldiers lobbed grenades at people who tried to flee.
Zaslawski's parents, three sisters and brother - his entire family - were murdered. The massacre was in reprisal for a bomb attack by Soviets on the Romanian military headquarters, and was personally ordered by the then pro-fascist dictator Ion Antonescu.
He was born in Slovakia in 1940 to a Jewish father and interned as a child at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp along with his mother and his two sisters and a brother, all of whom died there.
His older sister Edit survived the Nazi extermination along with Zoltan when the Red Cross rescued them in April 15, 1945.
His father is believed to have died at the Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1944.
Dublin paediatrician and rugby international Bob Collis, who was among the Red Cross contingent, adopted Zoltan and Edit and raised them in Ireland.
55. Ernest Mason:
Ernest Mason was 10 years old on the September day in 1944 when Raoul Wallenberg saved his life.
Mason's Jewish family was seeking asylum from the Hitler regime. Millions of Jews had already been exterminated by then, including Mason's older brother Laszlo. Wallenberg gave Mason's family Swedish citizenship papers and put them in a safe house, where they remained until the end of the Second World War.
Mason spent much of 1944 in hiding with his family. His father and older brother Laszlo were sent to a work camp, where his brother was killed. Another older brother went to Auschwitz, while his older sister lived with a friend, posing as a Christian.
Mason lived with his mother and 18-month-old brother near Budapest in the fall of 1944, posing as Christian for six weeks before they left for fear they were endangering their host family.
His mother headed to the Swedish embassy, where rumour had it they could get citizenship papers. But the line was impossibly long, and Jews were not allowed on the streets after 4 p.m.
Carrying Mason's little brother, his mother led the boys around to the back of the embassy, looking for an alternate way inside. That's when his mother found a man in a gated garden. She spoke German to the man through the fence, and he let them inside. Mason later learned that was Raoul Wallenberg.
Wallenberg disappeared in 1945, captured by the Russians. He is believed to have died in captivity in 1947, although some believe he lived imprisoned into the 1980s. His body has never been found.
56. The figure 80 percent:
Historians still agree that the overwhelming majority of Polish Jews were killed by the Germans, first in overcrowded ghettos under conditions calculated to kill slowly, and then through deportations to the death camps, a process mostly completed by late 1942. But they estimate that some 10 percent of Poland's Jews escaped deportation and sought shelter in villages and forests, often in large family units. The great majority of these Jews (probably more than 80 percent) did not survive until liberation because Poles helped Germans hunt them down.
In their studies of rural Poland, the Polish historians Jan Grabowski, who teaches at the University of Ottawa, and Barbara Engelking, of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, have shown how this happened. First, German police and Polish village leaders enlisted peasants to comb the forests for Jews who were attempting to survive, often in hand-dug caves and bunkers. Once discovered, the Jews were usually executed on the spot, often by German policemen but sometimes by Polish ones. Jews who took shelter with Polish peasants likewise were usually hunted down and killed. This was due not to frequent patrols by the German police, who were actually few and far between, but to the watchful eyes of other Poles, recording in an invisible ledger every commonplace fact, such as extra portions of bread or milk being consumed by a given household. The members of one Polish family lost their lives when German gendarmes - tipped off by the family's neighbors - discovered stores of food intended for Jews in hiding (who were also discovered and shot).
Polish historians have long known about Polish collaborators, whom they described as marginal, the dregs of society. Now a consensus is arising among researchers that the denouncers came from all walks of life.
57. Ida and Louise Cook:
Ida and Louise were to become among the most effective British transporters of Jews out of Germany between 1937 and the outbreak of war.
During those years the sisters made numerous quick trips to Nazi Germany, avoiding the suspicion of German border officials by taking flights from Croydon and returning via Holland and ship to Harwich. It isn't clear how many Jews they saved - the record speaks of '29 cases' but many cases were families rather than individuals so the number may have been 50, 60, or more.
In 1965 the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Authority in Jerusalem bestowed on the sisters the honour of 'Righteous Among the Nations'...
(For an index to the whole series, see here)