“If I were to fail, to turn away and thus permit the death of this person whom I could perhaps save, only because I was in danger myself, I would be committing the same error as the entire German people…The people who ordered and implemented these horrible deeds were not so many. But infinitely many others let it happen, because they lacked the courage to prevent them.”From the testimony of Dr. Ella Lingens, a Righteous Among the Nations, who was a prisoner in Auschwitz
On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the last such camp still functioning. They found 7,000 survivors. Another 50,000 inmates had been marched out several days earlier by the camp’s staff in order to prevent them from falling into Allied hands. Most of them perished before the war ended. Auschwitz, where over one million people – most of them Jews — were killed, has become a symbol for the Holocaust and for evil as such, and rightly so. For the Jewish people, it is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, a cemetery without graves.
And yet, even within the horror that was Auschwitz, there were flickers of light. Despite the total dehumanization that was part of the camp system, there were remarkable acts of solidarity and humanity by camp inmates. Among them were non-Jews, who at risk to their own lives, sought to ease the pain, to give aid and to rescue Jews. They proved that even within the brutality and the murder, people could choose not to remain indifferent. These non-Jews are among the more than 21,000 who by 2006 have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Since 1963, as mandated by the Israeli Parliament, Yad Vashem has honored those non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, saved Jewish lives in circumstances that posed a risk to his or her life, without intending to receive a reward, monetary or otherwise.
In Flickers of Light we bring you six of their stories.
“And so we must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.”Elie Wiesel