Yad Vashem was established in Jerusalem in 1953, as the world centre for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem means a memorial and a name. As a living memorial to the Holocaust, the organisation has as its objective: safeguarding the memory of the past and imparting its meaning for future generations.
In telling the story of the Holocaust, it has recognised a group of people known as ‘the righteous’. The term ‘Righteous among the Nations’ is used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.
These men and women of all ages and from 44 countries around the world were of different beliefs, social background, level of education, nationality, and from all walks of life. Their common goal was to save life. Many of the righteous became rescuers as a result of having Jews ask them for help. Others simply witnessed the actions of the Nazis and their collaborators and decided to act.
Rescuers lived in constant fear of the consequences of their actions. In Eastern Europe the penalty paid for being caught helping or sheltering Jews was not only the death of the individual, but also of their entire family. The Nazis would post notices to this effect in order to deter locals from providing assistance to Jews.
The righteous helped Jews in many ways. Some provided shelter for Jews for just a night; others hid them in or around their homes or property for some time and would often take care of every need of those they rescued. Help might take the form of providing false papers and identities, smuggling Jews out of the country or assisting escape in some other practical way.
The following pages highlight several of the Righteous among the Nations. Read their stories, reflect and learn how you might use their example as a model for your own actions.