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They Were Just People

Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust

Bill Tammeus (author) Jacques Cukierkorn (author)

ISBN: 9780826218766

Publication Date: Dec 2009

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

In most countries under German control, those who rescued Jews risked imprisonment and death. In Poland, home to more Jews than any other country at the start of World War II and location of six German-built death camps, the punishment was immediate execution. This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers.
£52.50

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Hitler's attempt to murder all of Europe's Jews almost succeeded. One reason it fell short of its nefarious goal was the work of brave non-Jews who sheltered their fellow citizens. In most countries under German control, those who rescued Jews risked imprisonment and death. In Poland, home to more Jews than any other country at the start of World War II and location of six German-built death camps, the punishment was immediate execution. This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. The authors traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. Tammeus and Cukierkorn unfold many stories that have never before been made public: gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter. These are harrowing accounts of survival and bravery. Maria Devinki lived for more than two years under the floors of barns. Felix Zandman sought refuge from Anna Puchalska for a night, but she pledged to hide him for the whole war if necessary - and eventually hid several Jews for seventeen months in a pit dug beneath her house. Through some twenty stories like these, Tammeus and Cukierkorn show that even in an atmosphere of unimaginable malevolence, individuals can decide to act in civilized ways. Some rescuers had antisemitic feelings but acted because they knew and liked individual Jews. In many cases, the rescuers were simply helping friends or business associates. The accounts include the perspectives of men and women, city and rural residents, clergy and laypersons - even children who witnessed their parents' efforts. These stories show that assistance from non-Jews was crucial, but also that Jews needed ingenuity, sometimes money, and most often what some survivors called simple good luck. Sixty years later, they invite each of us to ask what we might do today if we were at risk - or were asked to risk our lives to save others.

Reviews

By sharing these personal accounts, authors Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn provide for their readers a glimpse into the dilemmas and decisions faced by Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in Poland and by non-Jews who played a role in their survival. This book offers a useful perspective for those wanting to learn more about the Holocaust and the context in which rare acts of rescue occurred. - Midwest Center for Holocaust Education
Illustrations 32 illustrations, 21 maps, bibliography, index
Pages 264
Date Published 30 Dec 2009
Publisher University of Missouri Press
Subject/s The Holocaust   Jewish studies   20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000  
Bill Tammeus, a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Kansas City Star, is the author of A Gift of Meaning (University of Missouri Press) and lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, descended from Polish rabbis, is the spiritual leader of the New Reform Temple in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide.

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