cover image The Just: How Six Unlikely Heroes Saved Thousands of Jews from the Holocaust

The Just: How Six Unlikely Heroes Saved Thousands of Jews from the Holocaust

Jan Brokken, trans. from the Dutch by David McKay. Scribe, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-950354-56-6

Brokken (The Rainbird) provides an inspirational and richly detailed look at bureaucratic efforts to help Jews escape Europe in the early years of WWII. He centers the narrative on two diplomats in Kaunas, Lithuania: Dutch consul Jan Zwartendijk and Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara. After Soviet forces occupied Lithuania, Dutch Jews and Polish Jewish refugees asked Zwartendijk to note on their travel documents that no visa was necessary for admission to Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. Though permission from the governor of the Netherlands Antilles was required, Zwartendijk purposefully omitted that fact from the papers he signed. While Sugihara’s primary duty was to provide Tokyo with intelligence on German and Soviet troop movements, he stuck his neck out by ignoring official protocols to issue transit visas for Japan. Between them, Brokken contends, Zwartendijk and Sugihara helped as many as 10,000 people escape. Other profile subjects include Ho Feng-Shan, of the Chinese consulate in Vienna, who distributed visas to Shanghai at a time when his country no longer had control of that city. Evocative portraits of his protagonists’ family lives deepen Brokken’s depictions of their hazardous actions. Readers will take heart from these obscure yet consequential acts of courage. (Aug.)