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Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The theme this year is Be the light in the darkness. A summary of the vision for the theme can be found here.
During the Nazi period everyone had to make moral choices. Some people became perpetrators, others were bystanders. A small and brave minority chose to help the persecuted – these are rescuers and helpers. This was an extraordinary selfless choice. It meant risking not only their own lives but the lives of their own family and children. Many paid with their lives. None succeeded in halting the Holocaust, but many people survived as a result of their efforts.
Those regarded as rescuers may have hidden someone for a few hours, overnight, or for two or three years. Some may have saved one life, others saved thousands. Whatever the scale each deed was as significant as each other. Both the Talmud and the Koran remind us: “whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved the world entire.”
Stories of rescuers are found in every Nazi-occupied country and from all walks of life. Their actions demonstrate that true heroes are often just ordinary people acting on their convictions. Many were surprised that what they had done was deemed to be exceptional.
The Nazis were brutal in their reprisals against anyone caught trying to assist Jews. Bystanders therefore had good reason to be concerned for their personal safety. This in turn makes the actions of those who did resist the more remarkable. Their actions were selfless, but no less calculated. They knew the potential risk but acted anyway.
Information about some of these individuals and families can be found in the links below.