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The International School for Holocaust Studies

The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations:
Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust in Poland

Featured Book

Reviewed by Dr. Gideon Greif

The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations

Editor-in-Chief: Israel Gutman
Yad Vashem, 2005
Two volumes, 1018 pages

This encyclopedia is a project that documents and honors the noble actions of more than 20,000 non-Jews throughout Europe who endangered themselves in order to save Jews during the Holocaust and who have been granted the title of Righteous Among the Nations from Yad Vashem. This review covers the new volume on Poland and was edited by Sara Bender and Shmuel Krakowski. Sara Bender teaches in the Department of Jewish History at the Haifa University and Shmuel Krakowski is a survivor and a professional historian of the Holocaust.

The appearance of this volume has great value. From an educational standpoint, it deserves to be found in every classroom and educational institution in Poland as it highlights the power of each individual to fight against the powers of darkness, to maintain his or her humanity in all situations and to extend help to anyone in need. This volume, like the others in this series, reflects the words of the famous historian, Dr. Emanuel Ringleblum, who wrote that the actions of these individuals would one day be the inspiration for the finest literary creations.

Every example of a Jew who was rescued during the Holocaust is the story of the victory of the human spirit over the powers of darkness and evil that Nazi Germany brought to the world. The personal stories of the Righteous Among the Nations provide educators who are interested in teaching about the Holocaust in its wider universal context a rich resource highlighting the importance of human values, examples of moral behavior in stressed times marked by the absence of all moral criteria, and the nascent hope for a better future.

The publication of this two-volume set is also important from the perspective of Polish-Jewish relations. The more than five thousand Poles who endangered themselves to save Jews cast an illuminating light on the complex texture of Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust, serving as a counterweight to the negative actions of other Poles who handed Jews over to the Germans or were organized in bands that hunted Jews.

The editors of these two volumes clearly invested a lot of effort in collecting all the biographical details and the stories how Polish individuals saved Jews. In addition, they have added a lexicon, photographs, maps, and an index of names and geographical locations.

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