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They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust Paperback – September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Missouri (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826218601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826218605
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“They Were Just People is an important contribution to the literature of rescue during the Holocaust. Tammeus and Cukierkorn have brought to the fore many gripping stories never before told, forming an inspirational narrative of courage and survival. These are the experiences of people who had the courage to care and the courage to act in a time when caring for others meant endangering oneself and one’s family. A Reader’s Guide supplements the poignant stories and compels the reader to reflect and discuss the implications of choice and action. The stories are individual, the lessons universal.”
Stanlee J. Stahl, Executive Vice President, The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous



“A wonderfully written, engaging book providing a perspective that sadly is often missing when reading about the Holocaust. It shows that at least a few people saved the honor of humankind and witnessed God, even in the midst of such terrible times.”—Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, Distinguished Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey



“By sharing these personal accounts, authors Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn provide for their readers a glimpse into the dilemmas and decisions faced by Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in Poland and by non-Jews who played a role in their survival. This book offers a useful perspective for those wanting to learn more about the Holocaust and the context in which rare acts of rescue occurred.”
Midwest Center for Holocaust Education



They Were Just People is a clear-eyed documentation of compassion during the Holocaust. The harrowing hunt to capture and exterminate a Jewish population in Poland is recalled by a score of survivors aided by rescuers—family, friends, and strangers—whose moral code and humanity transcended their own fear of Nazi retribution. But the stories do not sentimentalize nor analyze. Each account, carefully researched and corroborated, bears witness both to the survivors’ will to live and their rescuers’ determination to do the right thing.  Authors Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn triumph in a journalistic achievement about the innate spiritual resilience of humanity.”— Suzette Martinez Standring, Past President, National Society of Newspaper Columnists

About the Author

Bill Tammeus, a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Kansas City Star, is the author of A Gift of Meaning (University of Missouri Press) and lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, descended from Polish rabbis, is the spiritual leader of the New Reform Temple in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide.

Customer Reviews

The authors wrote this book in a documentary format.
Big East Coast
This assortment of stories is a testament to the human spirit of goodness, and offers much personal history of those who resisted evil.
Midwest Book Review
Extensive notes, bibliography, and Reader's Guide make this an exceptionally useful book for personal reflection or group discussion.
B. K. Loots

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on April 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
"They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust" appears wholesome and high-minded. The proverbial one candle - "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" - illuminates the black cover. The title is clever - Polish rescuers identified the Jews they saved as "just people," meaning, "simply people." These rescuers can be identified as "just people," as in "righteous people." Co-author Tammeus is a Presbyterian elder whose surname suggests German ancestry; Cukierkorn is descended from Polish Rabbis. Maggie Finefrock, my old Peace Corps buddy, sent me the book. What could be wrong with this picture?

"They Were Just People" systematically erases important facts in distortion so careful it's hard to believe it occurred by chance. A book that purports to be about tolerance is in fact a book that may contribute to the cultivation of ignorant arrogance and even hate. Neither the University of Missouri nor any other American university press would publish a Holocaust-related book that so carefully presented an equally skewed depiction of Jews. That a university press gave this book the green light says much, none of it good, about double standards in academia.

Writing about Polish-Jewish relations during World War Two is one of the hardest tasks any author might ever undertake. Strides have been made by authors like Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Eva Hoffman, Gunnar S. Paulsson, Antony Polonsky, Michael C. Steinlauf, Nechama Tec, and Leon Weliczker Wells. Tammeus and Cukierkorn appear either to be unaware of these authors' efforts at fairness or so dismissive of them that they need not incorporate their ethical heritage.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Esther Ingber on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
A disclaimer: my own father's story of rescue during the Holocaust makes up the opening chapter of "They Were Just People." The Dudziks, who sheltered Dad and his brother on their farm, knew the boys' father. Keeping them safe was motivated by respect for that relationship, but also because of the Dudziks' strong Catholic faith. As I read the other stories of rescue, I was alarmed by how often money or the promise of property prompted people to do the right thing. Ultimately, though, the motivation to do good didn't really matter. It was the end result: the lives of the Jews they saved. I'm impressed by how these personal stories have been captured in a forthright manner, in spite of detailing events that took place in Poland 70 or more years ago. This wasn't an easy project that journalist/blogger Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn took on: finding Holocaust survivors willing to share memories of all kinds despite the inevitable ravages of memory. The survivors' histories make fascinating reading, and the tales are told with respect and dignity. I salute the authors as well as the survivors for their determination to create this collection. As the title suggests, we are all "just people" -- capable of rising to the highest level of altrusim, but also doing the opposite. The book with its helpful study questions encourage readers consider the moral/ethical issues raised in each chapter. What would YOU do -- would you risk your own life -- if someone unrelated to you needed your assistance to survive?
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. K. Loots on September 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
These remarkable stories preserve the artless voices of the people interviewed--both survivors and rescuers--sharing their darkest memories. Detailed accounts of horrifying things that happened to people simply going about their lives are reported with directness and honesty. They could be your neighbors. They could be you. And that's a lot to think about. Extensive notes, bibliography, and Reader's Guide make this an exceptionally useful book for personal reflection or group discussion.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jim on October 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Cukierkorn, travelled to Poland and across America to interview those who gave of themselves to help save
people they did not have to save. Could I have done this? Could you do this? This is a stunning book of hope for all people.
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Knowing the draconian punishments meted out by the Nazis to Polish people who assisted Jewish people during the Holocaust, it is incredible that at least 6,000 people were brave enough to do so.

When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, the only ray of hope for humanity came from the hall of Righteous Among the Nations, those who risked their lives to help people in desperate need. I looked for and found memorials to Sophie Scholl and her brother and friend, of the White Rose Brigade. This book has added to my store of heroes.
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By Phillip J. Pisciotta on March 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Rabbi author is my Rabbi. The other minister is a friend, so I am a bit bias. Still both men put a lot of effort into telling a part of the Holocaust that might otherwise have been lost. Time is running out to speak to 1st hand survivors or those who aided our people. A warm felt thanks to these two men who pulled out gems for everlasting memory.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Forhasta on May 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
These publishers, along with the Rabbi need serious help. This is an anti-Polish hate book and is not what it appears to be. Don't bother with it.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Karin McPhail on September 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Just when you know you cannot read another book or see another film on the Holocaust, along comes the amazing "They Were Just People." From the cover which is beautiful to the superb introduction, maps, photos, footnotes and study guide, it became clear this book is unusual and a "Must Read." Fortifying myself with "And Jesus Wept,"
as well as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) who said that to counteract 'sinat hinam," gratuitous hatred, one must practice "ahavat hinam," gratuitous love, I began
the stories/interviews. Carefully documented and beautifully written, these accounts of horror and heroism experienced by Polish Jews and non-Jews are so deeply moving
I could not put the book down, and now that I have, I realize it is a book that changes one with new insight into our own times and our own hearts. To quote Rabbi Kook
again, "Radiant is the World Soul, full of life, of souls hidden, of fountains of strength, of greatness and beauty."
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More About the Author

Bill Tammeus is the former Faith section columnist for The Kansas City Star. He came to The Star in 1970 as a reporter, spent nearly 27 years on the paper's editorial page and then moved his column in March 2004 to the weekly Faith section. He took formal retirement in mid-2006 but continued as Faith section columnist on a freelance basis until mid-November 2008. He currently writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog on the Star's website, a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook and a biweekly column for The National Catholic Reporter.

A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Bill was a member of the Star staff that won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. His many other awards include several from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the American Academy of Religion, in addition to receiving the 2005 Wilbur Award given each year to the best religion column in the country. He received the David Steele Distinguished Writer Award from the Presbyterian Writers Guild in 2003 and is the author of A Gift of Meaning, published by the University of Missouri Press in 2001, and co-author of They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, published in 2009 by the University of Missouri Press.

Bill is past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He's married to Marcia Tammeus. Between them they have six children and six grandchildren.

Visit Bill's blog at http://billtammeus.typepad.com.


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