“Righteous Among the Nations” is the official title given to non-Jews who risked their lives in order to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The deeds of each candidate for the title are reviewed by a special committee at Yad Vashem.
“In many cases, it was ordinary people who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust. They chose, against all odds, to hide one or more Jews in their home or yard. Often, the rescuer would build a bunker for the Jew, who would stay there for weeks, months, or years, hardly ever seeing the sun. Food was very scarce during the war, and the rescuer would share the few pieces of bread he had with the Jews he was hiding from the Nazis.
“There are also cases where groups of people, rather than individuals, rescued Jews. In the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, and France, underground resistance groups helped Jews, mainly by finding them hiding places. In Denmark, ordinary Danes transported 7,000 of the country's 8,000 Jews to Sweden in a fishing-boat operation.
“In a few instances, highly placed Germans used their position to aid Jews. The most famous of these rescuers is Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who rescued thousands of Jews from the Plaszow camp by employing them in his factory.
“Diplomats and civil servants have also been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations.” Some of the better-known ones are Aristides Sousa Mendes (Portugal), Sempo Sugihara (Japan), and Paul Gruninger (Switzerland), all of whom risked their careers to help Jews. But the most famous of the diplomats who rescued Jews is probably Raoul Wallenberg, from Sweden, who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Despite his diplomatic immunity, he was arrested by the Soviets after the conquest of Budapest and apparently died in the Soviet camp system.
“By the year 2000, over 17,000 men and women had received the honor and title “Righteous Among the Nations.” The many instances of rescue perpetuated by those designated as "Righteous Among the Nations" show that rescue was indeed possible, despite the dangerous circumstances. The recipients of the title not only saved Jewish lives but help restore our faith in humanity.”
Yad Vashem. “The Holocaust Resource Center.” “Who are the 'Righteous Among the Nations'?”
Accessed on 6/10/11.