13 Inspiring Stories About The Holocaust
It can be difficult to imagine happiness during the time of the Holocaust, as millions of innocent lives were lost. And while remembering the sober aspects of that tragedy is important, it's also uplifting when stories of hope and love surface. Many unaffected citizens risked their livelihoods to ensure the safety of their neighbors. Many prisoners put others' safety before their own. And many people of extreme political prominence did their part in making sure the events would not be easily forgiven or forgotten.
Vote up the stories of love and heroism in the face of adversity that truly warmed your heart.
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Eugene Lazowski Saved 8,000 People From Being Sent To The Camps By Pretending They Had Typhus
As a young man fresh out of medical school in Poland, Eugene Lazowski couldn't turn his back on his Jewish neighbors. In fact, he risked his life on a daily basis to help those citizens when German forces invaded Poland. If a Jewish person required medical help for anything, the secret process of alerting the young doctor was to hang a rag on Lazowski's fence. Then, under the cover of darkness, he would visit them on a house call. He claimed that the oath he took in medical school required him to assist all people in need of medical attention, regardless of gender, race, or religion.
But that's not all young Lazowski did to help save his Jewish neighbors. While experimenting with bacterial injections, he discovered that if a person was given a vaccine containing dead epidemic typhus bacteria, they would in fact test positive for the disease but suffer no adverse effects. Because the soldiers deporting Jews wouldn't want to suffer a deadly outbreak at any of the camps, they wouldn't bother taking those afflicted. Lazowski injected this vaccine into many people within his town, triggering a quarantine for the area, and saving the lives of about 8,000 people from suffering the horrific conditions of concentration camps.
- Photo: FOTO:FORTEPAN /ARCHIV FÜR ZEITGESCHICHTE ETH ZÜRICH / AGNES HIRSCHI / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Carl Lutz has become somewhat famous in his own right for the efforts he made to save thousands of Jews who were destined for the camps. A Hungarian diplomat, Lutz refused to stand by and let Hungarian Jews be deported. His way of helping came by way of documents he issued that claimed protection by the Swiss Legion. He extended Swiss protection to cover the safe houses those with papers were crammed into to avoid deportation; he also created forged documents to distribute more than the 8,000 he was allowed to.
By the end of the Second World War, Lutz and other diplomats were responsible for saving about half of the Jewish population in Budapest, which equaled about 62,000 innocent lives. His bravery and commitment to saving them using brilliant tactics cemented his heroism during those trying times. His stepdaughter commented on Lutz's outlook of the situation as: "The laws of life are stronger than man-made laws... My father always considered his time in Budapest and the rescue of innocent Jews as the most important part of his life."
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Danish People Helped Hide And Evacuate Thousands Of Their Jewish Neighbors, Saving 90% Of Danish Jews
During a time where six million Jewish lives were lost, it's astounding that more than 90% of Jews living in Denmark survived the reign of the Third Reich. When news began to spread that Danish Jews were scheduled to be forcibly evacuated to the camps, their Danish neighbors decided to work together to save them for the fate that awaited them. People began urging all Jews in the area to hide or flee quickly, and helped them do that successfully.
By using the safe haven offered by nearby Sweden, Jewish people would stow away on small boats making the trek. It's estimated 7,200 lives were saved by successfully making it to Sweden during the rushed escape. Most Danes refused to take credit for their heroism after the war, but the ordinary folks of Denmark are in large part responsible for saving thousands of lives.
- Photo: Fabio-Staffetta / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.041,055 VOTES
Giovanni Borromeo Saved 9,000 Lives By Making Up A Fake Contagious Disease: Syndrome K
In 1943, the Third Reich began invading Rome, home to the ancient hospital of Fatebenefratelli, where Professor Giovanni Borromeo worked. In addition to letting Jewish doctors work at the hospital under false names, Borromeo also allowed a wing of the hospital to be used as a safe haven for Jews seeking refuge. Knowing the hospital would be raided, and that those who sought protection would be deported, Borromeo came up with an ingenious plan to deter their capture. Any Jewish person who sought asylum there would be admitted as a new patient claiming to be suffering from the highly dangerous "Syndrome K."
But Syndrome K wasn't a real affliction, and those being protected were encouraged to cough violently if a German soldier came near them. Because the Germans didn't want a breakout at any of their camps, they refused to look into the incident, and let those Jews remain under the care of the hospital. The "patients" were then moved to safe houses; it's estimated between 25 and 100 Jews were saved from the dangers of the camps by this fictitious disease.
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Two Jewish Prisoners Saved Nearly 40,000 Inmate Pictures With A Clever Plan
As was common in many concentration camps during WWII, many prisoners in Auschwitz were forced to do administrative and labor duties: sorting new arrivals' possessions, constructing and expanding the camps, and taking photos of the other captives. Nearly 39,000 prison photographs were taken in the photo lab at Auschwitz alone.
In 1945, during the camp evacuation, photo lab workers Wilhelm Brasse and Bronisław Jureczek were directed to burn all photographic evidence. Instead, the men came up with a way to save the pictures. They placed wet photo paper at the bottom of the furnace before placing the real pictures inside. With the furnace so packed and the wet paper creating so much smoke, the blaze went out quickly, and - once unsupervised - the men were able to take the unharmed pictures from the furnace to smuggle them out. They were later cataloged and have been kept in the Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
- Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Raphael Lemkin dedicated much of his life to protecting the safety of races, ethnicities, and religions. As early as 1933, Lemkin starting championing the cause of legal protection for such groups against mass extinction. He coined the term "genocide" in 1944, in his work documenting the atrocities of the German forces of the time. The term is defined like this:
...we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group... Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. [It] is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.
Lemkin was able to get the word included in the indictment of the German leaders tried in the Nuremberg trials, but it was not yet a legal crime. He lobbied with the United Nations for roughly four years to change that, and in 1948 the protection against such acts was adopted unanimously. After this triumph, he was nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes.
Unfortunately Lemkin himself lost 49 family members to the Germans during WWII.