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The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust Hardcover – February 4, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; Doubleday 2002 book club edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805062602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805062601
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Casey on March 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Martin Gilbert has written more on the Holocaust than, perhaps, anyone else. This, his latest work, is deserving of special praise. Gilbert looks at the many non-Jews who played personal roles in saving small and large numbers of Jews during WWII. He spends time discussing the better known saviors such as Schindler and Wallenberg, but he also looks to the lesser known people who risked their lives to save one or two at a time. He examines the many married couples who took in Jewish children and protected them as their own, and he looks at the many religious officials who hid children in convents and churches. Gilbert's examination of these relative unknowns is very good reading, and his detailed and painstaking research into so many people is obvious. This book is wonderful for so many reasons. It is an excellent history -- a history of a subject all too forgotten -- and it is a refreshing portrait of an otherwise horrible time in the history of mankind. These individual saviors stand out against a black background, and Gilbert's writing serves them justice and gives them the recognition they deserve.
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By A Customer on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After attending a seminar on teaching the Holocaust, I needed a little inspiration, so I purchased this book, which recounts the stories of hundreds of Jews who were rescued by non-Jews during the course of the Holocaust. Each chapter addresses a different part of Europe and the rescues that took place within that region, mostly through first-person accounts. The stories are very compelling and show quite clearly how much people were willing to risk in order to do the right thing when so few were willing to do so. The downside to the book is that each story is probably worth a chapter on its own and not just a paragraph or two; however, since this is one of the few books I've seen that puts all of the stories together in one place, so it's a worthwhile trade. On the whole, a very good book--though it is depressing to think how few were ultimately willing to help out their neighbors and do what what right and decent.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book that I am aware of that deals with the indescribable bravery of the multitute of unsung heroes all across Europe.

Thus it is a nice complimentary effort to his other book entitled "The Boys", which narrated the stories of the several hundred children who survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps.

The only reason why I did not award it a 5 star rating is because each incident is invariably condensed in one or two paragraphs. This was perhaps made necessary by the sheer number of acts of rigteousness that the author had to cover. In my opinion, he could have covered fewer number of situations but covered them in greater depth.

Nevertheless, the book astonishes the reader by narrating the acts of supreme courage shown by the rescuers when they perfectly understood that they could lose their lives if their acts of kindness were discovered.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't say this is a 'Happy' book. The period in which it is set is too terrible and many of the misdeeds described are too terrible to speak of.

But the Joy in this work, the proverbial Silver Lining is there were good people during this period. Many of whom happily risked their lives for strangers. Opening thier pockests and their homes to the hunted with no expectation of rewards of any kind. Some of these heroes were actually anti-semites who drew a line within thier own souls to do good for those they did not like. Just as many of the villeins were mercenaries who did what they did for just money, not caring who thier victims were. And the Author admits he can not tell the stories of all these heroes but just the few mentioned here.

Besides the noble deeds of the great humanitarian scoundrel Oskar Schindler, who so reminds me of the hero of the Film The Music Man, and the simple Dutch farmsers the Bogaards who turned their farm into a sanctuary hiding Jews from the Dutch police, We hear of an SS man who hides a Jewish inmate from one of his superiors in Dachau. A gypsy family who hides a Jewish Girl. Nuns and priests who hid Jewish children. So many risked their lives and liberty for strangers. And many paid for those lives with thier own. So many heroes, just not enough to do any real effective damage to the beast at work.

It is good to know some good people did exist during these evil times, and that is the joy of this book.

I must also say I do not like the Israili supreme court changing their designation from Righteous Gentiles to Righteous Persons.

It cheapens these heroes and prevents the casual observer knowing the full extent of their nature. There are Men. There are Women. And then there are 'persons'.
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Format: Paperback
This book has gotten a lot of praise for its treatment of a subject that has been overlooked for too long. That being said, this book -- as a work of history -- has some serious flaws. It is a collection of anecdotes, lacking analysis.

Each chapter contains scores of tales and anecdotes of rescue. The author does little to link them up. He provides scant analysis contrasting his different anecdotes or establishing patterns of rescue (e.g. those who did it for money vs. those who acted out of religious belief or ideology, cities vs. villages, etc.). The chapters are arranged by country or geographical region of Europe, but there is hardly any discussion explaining why some countries had higher rates of rescue than others. It doesn't seem as if Gilbert has a working thesis that he wishes to defend through his evidence. Rather, it seems that he went to the Yad Vashem archive and collected as many interesting tales of rescue as he could find and then categorized them by country for his book.

Because it is filled with many, many interesting stories, this book will chiefly be of interest to "lay readers" or armchair historians with an interest in Holocaust studies. Professional historians and scholars of the Holocaust may use this book as a resource (esp. for teaching), but they will quickly stumble upon this book's limits.
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