By Joey Bergida
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York, United States
On Sunday, March 7 , The New York Times had an article entitled "The Danish Heroes of Holocaust Rescue." The article began by mentioning a Jewish family, the Dondes, that had fled from Copenhagen. The Donde family survived due to the help that the Danes had given them.
"You must accept other peoples' way of living and behaving," said Mr. Donde many years after his scary and daring escape from Copenhagen in 1943. I believe this is very true, but people can't just sit back and say this, we have to react. The Danes did act and, as a result, saved many lives.
Boarding a fishing vessel late at night, twelve Jews were fleeing their homes and the German Nazis. Having never driven a boat, three Danes drove for eleven hours with twelve very scared Jews in the fishing vessel. For a while, everything was fine, then the vessel was spotted by the Germans, and the Danes had to race through the mine fields in the water. They escaped the Germans, and landed at Trelleborg. Two hours after they arrived, the vessel sank in the port. We always hear of all the horrors that the Holocaust brought, but we rarely hear of the people who did something to stop the atrocities. Why is this? "During the war there was little opportunity to hear about the rescues. After the war, the Scandinavians didn't think that they had done anything so special, so they didn't tell anyone...," said Mr. Netter. Mr. Netter is involved in a project that is thanking the Scandinavians for everything they did, according to the article.
The fact that they "didn't think they did anything so special" shows something about the people who were the rescuers. They put their own lives in jeopardy to help others who were suffering.
The Danes are still so reluctant to tell their story that one author had to promise to use fictitious names and occupations for the rescuers before they would speak to him. Their reluctance is unfortunate, because I think the rescue stories and their outcomes are very important in educating people now so that history will not repeat itself. I hope the rescue stories reach the public, not only for educational purposes, but also to show people that in a time of such turmoil and uncertainty, they were people helping people.
If anyone wishes to read more on rescuers during the Holocaust, the following two books might be enjoyable. Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, by Gay Block and Malka Drucker (Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc. New York and London, 1987). The second is The Courage to Care, by Carol and Meyers Sandra Rittner (New York: New York University Press, 1986). These are only two of the many books available on this important subject.
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