This story now
IN History & Culture ON 27 May, 2015
The second world war is one of the largest collection of popular stories, from stories of mysteries to stories of death and destruction. And as many as are the villains, so are the heroes. We all know about the holocaust, the Nazi kill marathon, but how many of us know about the people who struggled to keep the Jews safe? Well, here are ten people you will come to respect by the end of this story! Read on!
Feng Shan Ho, a Chinese diplomat, saved the lives of approximately 2000 Jews during the early years of the second world war. Ho was consul-general of the Chinese embassy in Vienna during the Austrian annexation. After the annexation, the Austrian Jews faced the danger of death at Nazi hands, and the only way to escape was to get out of the country. But, the policies were difficult that prevented them from getting visas. However, Ho acted against the orders of his superiors and began to issue visas to Shanghai. He continued issuing Visas till 1940, after which he returned to China.
Schindler was a businessman and a Nazi spy in Czechoslovakia and Poland before the Germans invaded it. It is said that many of his employees were Jewish and were to be killed, and he initially tried to save them for financial reasons, before changing his reasons to more humanitarian ones. He is said to have saved 1,200 Jews when he moved his factory west as the Nazi empire collapsed. By the end of the war, all the money was gone as Schindler had spent it bribing Nazis to keep his workers safe. He is one of the most famous figures in the list of heroes who spent their energy in trying to save Jews, all thanks to Thomas Kenneally's novel. His life is depicted in Steven Spielberg's classic film, 'Schindler's List.'
This Irish priest used his protection by the Vatican as a means to save 4000 Allied soldiers and Jews during World War II. Despite the Nazis desperately wanting to stop his actions, his protection by the Vatican prevented them officially arresting him. He was lucky enough to escape an assassination attack, even after which he continued to work with the Catholic Church to save the majority of Jews in Rome. He died in 1963.
Giorgio Perlasca was an Italian converted Spanish man who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the holocaust. He worked alongside Spanish diplomat Angel Sanz Briz in creating false passports to smuggle Jews out of the country. But, things began to go downhill when Sanz Briz was removed from his post. However, Perlasca didn't give up on his humanitarian thoughts and pretended to be his substitute so that he could continue printing false passports. He is also said to have personally sheltered more than several thousands of Hungarian Jews while they were waiting for their passports. It is approximated that he saved 5,000 Jews from the Holocaust.
A Japanese diplomat is serving as Vice Consul for the Japanese empire in Lithuania; Chiune Sugihara helped an estimated 6000 Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees so that they could travel to Japan. Most of the Jews who escaped with his help were refugees from Poland or residents of Lithuania. From July 31 to August 28, 1940, Sugihara began to grant visas of his accord to Jews. Many times he overlooked the requirements and arranged the Jews with a ten-day visa to transit through Japan. Most of his actions were in direct violation of his orders. This story is an extraordinary one of total disobedience, and one of the most influential as well. The reason is his drive to feed his humanitarian cause that didn't let even his inferior rank come in the way. It's believed that even after he had to leave his post, he continued writing visas while in transit in a hotel. When he boarded the train, threw visas into the crowd of desperate refugees from the train's window even as the train pulled out.
Fry belonged to a privileged American background and received the best education available before turning to writing. By 1935, he was working as a foreign correspondent in Berlin. He felt broken at what he saw in the Nazi regime and vowed to work against it. He started to raise money for anti-Nazi groups. Wealthy American supporters helped pay for his work and a courageous diplomat, Hiram Bingham, issued thousands of visas. The Emergency Rescue Committee was set up and helped by American Unitarians in Lisbon. Fry was a critic of his government's policies towards European Jewish refugees and was recruited in 1944 when President Roosevelt set up the War Refugee Board. Many popular artists, influential people and intellectuals were saved by Fry. He helped up to 4,000 people escape the Nazis, some Jewish, some anti-Nazis, while working as a journalist in Vichy France.
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou's church provided thousands of Jews with baptismal certificates, thus allowing them to become Christians and escape the deathly fate of the Jews during the Second World War. Being the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Damaskinos was the spiritual leader of his country. He'd been elected first in 1938, but was replaced due to the political powers of the Greek dictator, Metaxas, who didn't like him, and wished put his own man in place. The German invasion got rid of Metaxas and Damaskinos was elected again. And thus goes the story of how the Archbishop used his powers to help Jews and also those who helped Jews, by keeping them safe from him.
Raoul Wallenberg was a diplomat from a wealthy Swedish family who saved thousands of Jews from the holocaust and were one of the most respected of the heroes. Wallenberg was himself 1/16th Jewish and was proud of his origins. Wallenberg played his part by issuing protective passports for the Jews of Hungary. Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets, accused of espionage, after which he vanished like the air. It is doubted that he was killed. His acts of heroism are most honourable, and respectable as well. He is said to have once braved bullets to hand out passports to Jews already loaded onto trains heading for the camps. With the Soviet armies at the gates of Budapest, he negotiated and bribed German and Hungarian fascists to leave the ghetto unharmed.
This Portuguese diplomat was also one of those who put aside his diplomatic duties to lend a hand to the humanitarian cause of saving Jews. It is believed that Sousa Mendes issued 30,000 visas, of which 10,000 went to Jews. He undoubtedly saved the lives of several thousands of people who were able to get out of France only due to the grace of his documents, which he issued despite his government's insistence that he stop. Some historians have even gone on record and called him the greatest single life saver of the Holocaust.