Who was protecting the Jews? - Memory makes us free

Who was protecting the Jews?

«Unfortunately, on October 16th my aunt Ida was deported, with my three little cousins… The sum of their age was 30… My brother, my cousin and
I took refuge in the “Nobile di Mondragone”… we had documents and a new surname: “Sbardella”…»

Graziano Sonnino’s testimony tells us that an open door, a refuge, a hiding place to escape death was often given by religious institutes, convents and Christian churches.
These gave shelter and hid many Jews, even disguised them as Christians: they taught them prayers, dressed them as priests.

This support was reinforced by Pope Pius XII, a figure who was considered controversial by many, however in 1943 through the Vicariate of State he attested the extraterritoriality of each church as a sacred place and therefore impassable.

Priests were certainly not the only ones to defend Jews, many, many people with a strong will and courage, put their lives at risk to save some  less fortunate.

There are many examples:

  • German-occupied Denmark was the scene of the most famous and complete rescue operation in Axis-controlled Europe. The German Secret Police had planned to take advantage of martial law to deport all Danish Jews, but the Resistance organized a major rescue operation to transfer them safely to neutral Sweden (about 7,200 of the 7,800 Jews).
  • In the so-called General Governorate (German-occupied Poland) several Polish citizens supported the Jews. For example, Zegota (code name of the “Council to Help the Jews” or Rada Pomocy Zydom), a Polish clandestine organization that mainly sought to provide basic necessities to the Jews, carried out several support and rescue operations.
  • But, while the members of the Polish National Army (Armia Krajowa – AK) and the communist forces of the Polish People’s Army (Armia Ludowa – AL) helped the Jewish fighters during the Warsaw ghetto uprising – attacking the German positions, The Polish underground movement only provided a small amount of weapons and supplies. However, from the beginning of the deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka extermination centre, at least 20,000 Jews lived hidden around Warsaw.
  • In France, the Protestant population of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (a village) hid between 3,000 and 5,000 refugees. In Belgium and Italy, the clandestine networks organized by the Christian communities saved thousands of people.
  • In Budapest (occupied by the Germans) – Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (who was also an agent of the U.S. Committee to help War Refugees), diplomat Carl Lutz and Italian Giorgio Perlasca (who pretended to be a Spanish diplomat), provided the Jews with tens of thousands of so-called “protection certificates”, or passes.
  • In Krakow, Schindler hired more than a thousand Jewish workers in the factory effectively preventing their deportation to Auschwitz, and became famous thanks to Steven
    Spielberg’s film..

Whether they saved a thousand people or just one, those who came to the aid of the Jews during the Holocaust showed courage, even in extreme situations.

“Whoever saves a life saves the whole world" (Talmud, sacred text of Judaism)


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