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THE RIGHTEOUS: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

Martin Gilbert, Author . Holt $35 (560p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6260-1

Books have been written about individuals who risked their own safety to aid Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet this comprehensive examination by noted historian Gilbert (The First World War, etc.), recounted largely through first-person accounts by the Jews they rescued, is an important contribution. These thumbnail sketches of rescuers, their methods and, in some cases, the horrors they endured as a result of their courageous choices haven't previously been gathered in one volume. The result of 25 years of research sparked by witnessing Oskar Schindler's 1974 funeral procession in Jerusalem, Gilbert's country-by-country examination reveals as much about quiet dissent in Nazi-occupied Europe as it does about the human spirit. "For anyone who is honoured today for saving Jewish lives, there were ten or more who did the same," says one rescuer. In Vilna, a German officer, Maj. Karl Plagge, protected Jews from 1939 until 1944, by employing them in his Motor Vehicle Repair Park. In Germany, a young slave laborer, her feet frozen from working outdoors in the snow, was given a pair of shoes by an elderly couple in a remote wooded area; she never learned their names. The number of accounts is overwhelming, and fitting them all in one volume requires that each, to a degree, be given short shrift. But the very fact that there were so many tales of courage is reason to take heed of this heartening aspect of one of history's darkest moments. 32 pages of b&w photos, 20 maps. (Feb. 4)

Reviewed on: 01/20/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
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