Veneration of the Righteous Among the Nations

 

Many Jews (and even non-Jews) are preoccupied with the nightmare of the Holocaust. In one sense, that obsession is understandable; what took place, its horrors, exceed the imagination. I also believe that anti-Semitism is still a danger to the survival of the Jewish people.

At the same time, that period during WWII demonstrated the courage of many people who were prepared to rescue the Jews, even at the risk of their own lives. People like Oskar Schindler and Corrie Ten Boom are probably two of the best-known people who saved the Jews from certain death. But the museum at Yad Vashem in Israel has memorialized 26,500 people, who also aided Jews; they are called the Righteous Among the Nations. Here’s one story of one family’s courage:

In 1925, Alexander Weber converted to Judaism. A year later, he married Lina Banda, a Jewish woman from Hungary. The couple moved to Berlin, where they raised their seven children. In their building, at 48 Dragonerstrasse Street, was a shop rented by a farmer named Arthur Schmidt. Schmidt used the shop to store the fruit and vegetables he brought from his farm in Worin, Brandenburg.

In March 1943, the Weber family was arrested. Alexander and the children were released at the beginning of the summer, and when Alexander began to look for a safe place for his children, Arthur and Paula Schmidt offered to take the children to Worin and shelter them there. For almost two years, the Schmidt couple cared for the children, sharing their food with them. Only the mayor of Worin knew the children’s true identity.

Lina Weber was deported to Auschwitz in December 1943, where she was murdered. After the war, the Weber children immigrated to the United States, where they were later joined by their father.

On May 26, 2015, Yad Vashem recognized Arthur and Paula Schmidt as Righteous Among the Nations. The Schmidt family is the 601st family to be recognized from Germany.

When I read these stories, I am always in awe of those people who made the decision to help. I didn’t know until I researched for this post that over 26,000 heroes had been so honored; that means that there were probably many more people who stepped up to help and will remain anonymous. What made them take action? Where did they find the courage to defy their nation and their neighbors?

One factor that I do find reassuring: even though I am concerned about the growth of anti-Semitism, I am convinced by these examples of over 70 years ago that in these times, there will be people who will not stand by and watch the Jews destroyed. They will join us in saying, “Never Again.”

Addendum: I just finished reading an essay by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and his commentary on a true hero of the Torah: Pharoah’s daughter, who rescued the baby in the basket caught in the reeds. She was a righteous gentile. She saved the baby’s life. She called him Moses.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

    The Righteous Among the Nations do something.

    • #1
  2. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Irena Sendler, joined a Polish resistance group, and she helped save 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

    • #2
  3. GeneKillian Coolidge
    GeneKillian
    @GeneKillian

    One of the more amazing stories along these lines is that of Witold Pilecki, a Polish solider who broke INTO Auschwitz, in order to document the atrocities there. Sadly, he was eventually murdered by the Soviets. https://www.hmd.org.uk/resource/witold-pilecki/

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Irena Sendler, joined a Polish resistance group, and she helped save 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto.

    Thanks, @dougwatt. Irene Sendler and those she worked with, were true angels. On one hand, it brings back the horrendous events of those times; on the other hand, it lifts the spirit to think of these selfless, humble people.

    • #4
  5. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Irena Sendler may not have thought of herself as courageous, or heroic, but the rest of us should.

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I have a large volume by Yad Vashem published in 2007. As of 2006, 21,310 people had been identified as “The Righteous Among The Nations.” Since then many more have been identified. Irena Sendler is listed as one of them.

    • #6
  7. Josh F. Member
    Josh F.
    @

    I am glad the museum at Yad Vashem venerates those who did what they could with what they had.  I bet many of the Righteous Among the Nations are like humble, unassuming people we see in our daily lives who are giving of themselves to others in need with no expectation of praise or compensation. 

    Thank you for sharing this story Susan!

    • #7
  8. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Thanks, SQ!  I’m reminded of Raoul Wallenberg, as well. 

    • #8
  9. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    If you join the American Society for Yad Vashem, and donate any amount,  you get on their mailing list, and you receive their excellent publication “Martyrdom and Resistance”.  Each issue has multiple stories of the Holocaust, and new information about those who risked their lives and families to help Jews survive in Europe.  I read it avidly every time, and am constantly amazed at how people managed to dodge the Nazis.  There are many stories of very creative people who dreamed up new ways to keep Jewish families alive.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Thanks, SQ! I’m reminded of Raoul Wallenberg, as well.

    Thanks, @nandapanjandrum. Every name added to the OP warms my heart.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    If you join the American Society for Yad Vashem, and donate any amount, you get on their mailing list, and you receive their excellent publication “Martyrdom and Resistance”. Each issue has multiple stories of the Holocaust, and new information about those who risked their lives and families to hep Jews survive in Europe. I read it avidly every time, and am constantly amazed at how people managed to dodge the Nazis. There are many stories of very creative people who dreamed up new ways to keep Jewish families alive.

    Ditto that! It’s a meaty and in-depth publication. Thanks, @rushbabe49!

    • #11
  12. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    And, Pope St. John XXIII, when he was nuncio to Turkey. :-)

    • #12
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    GeneKillian (View Comment):

    One of the more amazing stories along these lines is that of Witold Pilecki, a Polish solider who broke INTO Auschwitz, in order to document the atrocities there. Sadly, he was eventually murdered by the Soviets. https://www.hmd.org.uk/resource/witold-pilecki/

    I’ve written of Pilecki here on Ricochet.

    • #13
  14. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    If you join the American Society for Yad Vashem, and donate any amount, you get on their mailing list, and you receive their excellent publication “Martyrdom and Resistance”. Each issue has multiple stories of the Holocaust, and new information about those who risked their lives and families to help Jews survive in Europe. I read it avidly every time, and am constantly amazed at how people managed to dodge the Nazis. There are many stories of very creative people who dreamed up new ways to keep Jewish families alive.

    Thank you for posting this. I would really like to donate to all kinds of things like it.

    • #14
  15. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge
    Chris Hutchinson
    @chrishutch13

    GeneKillian (View Comment):

    One of the more amazing stories along these lines is that of Witold Pilecki, a Polish solider who broke INTO Auschwitz, in order to document the atrocities there. Sadly, he was eventually murdered by the Soviets. https://www.hmd.org.uk/resource/witold-pilecki/

    Yes, Pilecki is one of the truly remarkable stories.  I recommend anyone interested in the Holocaust to check out the his intelligence report published by my friend’s company: http://www.theauschwitzvolunteer.com/.

    Susan, you’re right, there are so many other stories besides the ones honored by Yad Vashem. I’ve been privileged to hear other firsthand accounts since moving to Poland. People with this kind of courage most definitely deserve our veneration. I pray I’d have the same courage under the circumstances.

     

     

    • #15
  16. GeneKillian Coolidge
    GeneKillian
    @GeneKillian

    @Gumby Mark. Thank you. I just read your post on Pilecki. It was excellent. That guy had courage at a level I can’t comprehend.

    • #16
  17. GeneKillian Coolidge
    GeneKillian
    @GeneKillian

    @Chris Hutchinson Thank you for the book recommendation…I am definitely going to read it.

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    There have been many movies made about The Holocaust.  I recommend the movie Playing For Time.  It stars Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Alexander, Maud Adams, Christine Baranski, and many others.  It’s the story of Fania Fenelon, one of many female musicians at Auschwitz who played music for their captors in order to avoid being put to death.

    The only way I can describe watching it is “harrowing” . . .

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    There have been many movies made about The Holocaust. I recommend the movie Playing For Time. It stars Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Alexander, Maud Adams, Christine Baranski, and many others. It’s the story of Fania Fenelon, one of many female musicians at Auschwitz who played music for their captors in order to avoid being put to death.

    The only way I can describe watching it is “harrowing” . . .

    It was harrowing, @stad. I noticed a couple of years ago that when we rented videos, I was choosing one Holocaust story after another. It was heart-rending, and I swore off renting them for a while. Now and then we’ll rent one, but I have to be in a frame of mind to see it.

    • #19
  20. Mim526 Member
    Mim526
    @Mim526

    This post reminds me of something I read about an increasing number of people (based on survey of 1,350 adults over 18) who are unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust (millenials were particularly uninformed).

    It was encouraging, however, that a very high percentage of those surveyed also responded with “a desire for Holocaust education and improvement in the quality of Holocaust curriculum.”

     

    • #20
  21. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    I am so sick of Jews being “othered” and worse. 

    I’m watching a Hans-Herman Hoppe lecture right now that really challenges how to think about progress. How we treat Jews is a perfect example if you ask me.

    • #21
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Who we do and do not venerate may have enormous effects in the present, material world.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under December’s theme of Veneration. Have you had an encounter with a saint, or someone who is truly venerable? Is there a sports figure who you believe is venerated, and what do you think of it? What is venerated in our society today? We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story to tell about nature, art, or architecture that points to subjects worth venerating. Have we lost the musical, written, visual language of veneration? The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. Our January theme will be Renovation. You can reserve your day now.

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    • #22
  23. GeneKillian Coolidge
    GeneKillian
    @GeneKillian

    One chilling thing about the Holocaust is that it happened in a modern, cultured society, and was implemented by a man whose homeland  had provided the world with so many wonderful things (the music of Mozart, for example). The barrier between a free democracy and murderous, paranoid totalitarianism is gossamer-thin, and there still seem to be many people who are willing to cross it to advance their political beliefs. It CAN happen again, which is why the current love affair with “socialism” is so disturbing to those of us with close family members who fought in WW2.

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GeneKillian (View Comment):

    One chilling thing about the Holocaust is that it happened in a modern, cultured society, and was implemented by a man whose homeland had provided the world with so many wonderful things (the music of Mozart, for example). The barrier between a free democracy and murderous, paranoid totalitarianism is gossamer-thin, and there still seem to be many people who are willing to cross it to advance their political beliefs. It CAN happen again, which is why the current love affair with “socialism” is so disturbing to those of us with close family members who fought in WW2.

    The barriers are more fragile than we like to admit, @genekillian. That is why we must be vigilant without being paranoid, aware without being obsessed. It’s a lot to ask, isn’t it?

    • #24
  25. GeneKillian Coolidge
    GeneKillian
    @GeneKillian

    @Susan Quinn. Yes indeed. It’s especially a lot to ask from people who don’t realize (or don’t care) that they’re playing with fire.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mim526 (View Comment):

    This post reminds me of something I read about an increasing number of people (based on survey of 1,350 adults over 18) who are unaware of basic facts about the Holocaust (millenials were particularly uninformed).

    It was encouraging, however, that a very high percentage of those surveyed also responded with “a desire for Holocaust education and improvement in the quality of Holocaust curriculum.”

     

    Unfortunately those who desire the education, @mim526, are not the ones who write and teach. Content is selected by personal and political preferences, not the commitment to educate the truth and values that our kids need.

    • #26
  27. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    SQ, the present milieu in which children who receive state-funded medical care – e.g. Charlie Gard, and others – are viewed entirely as wards of the state, and the nebulous definitions of “quality of life” that drive ‘aid in dying’/assisted suicide laws are the camel’s nose under this tent…Vigilance, indeed. 

    • #27
  28. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I’ve referenced this post in the last 2018 QOTD. Closing out the year with a bang: Quote of the Day: Good Evening Mr. Waldheim

    • #28

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