From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Mining the extensive archives of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial Authority, along with memoirs and personal reminiscences, Gilbert (Univ. of London; The First World War) narrates the story of those gentiles acknowledged by Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations." Why some people chose to perform heroic deeds during the Holocaust often varied according to local circumstances. One of the book's virtues is Gilbert's ability to set the local context briefly before recounting the personal stories, thus keeping the human dimension paramount. A major criticism of "rescue studies" is that rescuers were in the minority; clearly, had there been more righteous, there would have been more survivors. Although Gilbert acknowledges that the sheer weight of Nazi power, along with the depth of local collaboration, certainly ensured that the number of rescuers would remain small, he justly claims that this makes their acts all the more worthy of study. Interestingly, in the chapter on Italy, Gilbert avoids delving into the intense controversy about the role of the papacy. Although Gilbert provides some analysis of the rescuers' motivations, the book is more descriptive than analytical. Still, it is recommended for all libraries.--Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.