carriage was a fine place to hide food, currency and passports for Jews.
The clandestine Polish Rescue Organization
Saved Jewish Lives Jewish survivors meet one of their teenage
My Hands: Memories of a student
nurse who rescued Jews. Amazon.com
By Irene Gut Opdyke
history play earns them a trip to Poland to meet a 90 year old rescuer
who "planted" the names of Jewish children she rescued in jars
in a garden in Poland so they may be reunited with their Jewish parents
Women and Children
of the Holocaust
Survivors of the Holocaust
are often described as courageous. But, it only takes a limited amount
of courage to save your own life because the will to live is inherent
in all humans and all animals.
The truly courageous
are the rescuers -- the ones who risked their own lives, the lives of
their families or their own comfort or status to help save the lives of
It was not easy. Many
of the rescuers would die if one of their neighbors found out. Even your
own neighbor could turn you in to be executed. It was also not fashionable
-- not the thing to do. It was much easier to look the other way and say,
"What can I do?"
In Poland, it was
a crime punishable by execution if you or anyone in your family was suspected
of aiding a Jew. There was no court or trial. Executions were done quickly
and publicly -- with no regard to right or wrong.
Most rescuers are
NOT listed at Yad Vashem. Why? The Jewish memorial known as Righteous
of the Nations has very strict guidelines for inclusion in their famous
list. Testimony of witnesses is mandatory. But, many rescuers died alone.
Many courageous rescuers failed to save the lives of their Jewish families.
Sometimes entire rescuer families and all witnesses were executed. There
were also thousands of anonymous rescuers -- people who helped secretly
and quietly but were never recognized. Yad Vashem's venerable list only
includes a small percentage of the actual rescuers.
Children - Their Power Underestimated
The innocence of youth
often enabled young adults and children to go unnoticed -- allowing them
much more access to the victims. A young child could more easily sneak
a loaf of bread through a hole in the ghetto fence.
Two young lovers walking
hand-in-hand carrying clandestine messages would not be readily suspected
of being couriers for the Resistance or Polish Underground.
Also, there is something
about the youth, especially teens, that allows them to have no fear of
dying. They often cannot be convinced that life on Earth has an end. This
brazen philosophy kills many teens in automobile accidents -- but this
fearlessness also makes them brave. Their stories are inspirational testaments
to their often-underestimated power.
Women - Their Capabilities Underestimated
women were left alone at home while their men fought in the streets and
forests. Because of the inherent nature of the female, many women became
heroines ten times over.
would have suspected, "Babcza", the old lady, her head covered
with a brightly flowered babushka, selling apples from a cart of being
a secret liaison for the underground resistance movement? One pocket of
her apron held coins for making change, but the other pocket held cryptic
messages that she passed to a young man who uttered the correct coded
2008 Terese Pencak Schwartz
All rights reserved.
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