Rescuers during the Holocaust


Allies: During World War II, the group of nations including the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the Free French, who joined in the war against Germany and other Axis countries.

Auschwitz - Birkenau /oushvits - biakenow/ : A complex consisting of concentration, extermination, and labor camps in Upper Silesia. It was established in 1940 as a concentration camp and included a killing center in 1942. Auschwitz I: The main camp. Auschwitz II (Also known as Birkenau): The extermination center. Auschwitz III (Monowitz): The I.G. Farben labor camp, also known as Buna. In addition, there were numerous subsidiary camps.

B'richa: The organized and illegal mass movement of Jews throughout Europe following World War II.

Bund /boond/ : The Jewish Socialist Party founded in 1897. It aspired to equal rights for the Jewish population. During World War II the Bund was active in the underground resistance and some Bund members were also part of some Judenrat councils. They took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Bystander: One who is present at some event without participating in it.

Collaboration: Cooperation between citizens of a country and its occupiers.

Dachau /dakhou/ : Nazi concentration camp in southern Germany. Erected in 1933, this was the first Nazi concentration camp. Used mainly to incarcerate German political prisoners until late 1938, whereupon large numbers of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other supposed enemies of the state and anti-social elements were sent as well. Nazi doctors and scientists used many prisoners at Dachau as guinea pigs for experiments. Dachau was liberated by American troops in April 1945.

Death camp: Nazi extermination centers where Jews and other victims were brought to be killed as part of Hitler's Final Solution.

Death marches: Forced marches of prisoners over long distances and under intolerable conditions was another way victims of the Third Reich were killed. The prisoners, guarded heavily, were treated brutally and many died from mistreatment or were shot. Prisoners were transferred from one ghetto or concentration camp to another ghetto or concentration camp or to a death camp.

Eisenhower, Dwight D.: As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General Eisenhower commanded all Allied forces in Europe beginning in 1942.

Guerrilla warfare: Fighting in which small independent bands of soldiers harass an enemy through surprise raids, attacks on communications and the like.

Partisans: Irregular forces which use guerrilla tactics when operating in enemy-occupied territory. During the Holocaust, partisans operated secretly in their efforts to assist Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis.

Righteous Gentiles: Non-Jewish people who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jewish people from Nazi persecution. Today, a field of trees planted in their honor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, commemorates their courage and compassion.

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano: Thirty-second president of the U.S., serving from 1933-1945.

Hannah Sennesh : A Palestinian Jew of Hungarian descent who fought as a partisan against the Nazis. She was captured at the close of the war and assassinated in Budapest by the Nazis.

Underground: Organized group acting in secrecy to oppose government, or, during war, to resist occupying enemy forces.

Raoul Wallenberg: A Swedish diplomat who deliberately stationed himself in Hungary during the war to save Hungarian Jews from their deaths.

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Discussion Questions/Research Topics


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following abridged bibliography and introduction is reproduced with the permission of the authors, Mary Mark and Mark Klempner.

Holocaust Rescuers Bibliography To view the entire bibliography (which includes links to some of the books), visit their Web site, "Whosoever Saves a Single Life..."

Whosoever saves a single life...

The Holocaust is a history of overwhelming horror and enduring sorrow. Sometimes it seems as though there is no spark of human concern or kindness, no act of humanity, to lighten that dark history. Yet there were acts of courage and kindness during the Holocaust which can offer us some hope for our past and for our future. Archives such as those of the United States Holocaust Museum contain records of rescues and survivors; Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, has honored more than 20,000 rescuers, and many additional cases await their consideration.

This bibliography lists works in English which discuss the lives and actions of rescuers during the Holocaust. Individuals, groups, and in the case of Denmark, almost an entire country, reached out. Bulgaria was also active in protecting its Jewish population.

People like Andre Trocmé, the minister and spiritual leader of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, probably fit most closely to our stereotypes of those who will help. Trocmé was clearly motivated by ethical and religious convictions. Yet many others, who could have been expected to hold similar beliefs, failed to act. Less expected is an Oskar Schindler, the opportunistic businessman who made a fortune using Jewish slave labour—and spent that fortune again to save the lives of those in his factory. What did they have in common?

What was it that lead some people to reach out and help others, to become rescuers, while most of the population around them did not? What was it, about individuals and societies, that led them to act on behalf of strangers? Perhaps, if we can begin to understand this, we can begin to build societies in which such actions are more likely to happen, and in which genocide is less likely to occur.


Visit Stories of Rescue and Heroism in the Literature section for an annotated bibliography of recommended works.

Rescuer Articles Rescuer Articles. This bibliography, also by Mary Mark and Mark Klempner, lists articles written in English which discuss the lives and actions of rescuers during the Holocaust.

Other Resources

  • The Courage to Care. Profiles of non-Jews who risked their lives to help protect the Jews from Nazi persecution are highlighted through film footage, still photographs, and first-person accounts. (29 minutes), Grades 6-12, United Way
  • A Debt to Honor. This documentary tells the extraordinary story of how the Italian Christians helped save over 30,000 Jews during Hitler's occupation of Northern Italy. Through interviews, film footage and still photography, Nuns, Priests and others tell their story of heroism. (30 minutes), Grades 7-12, Documentaries International, 1995
  • Holocaust: Liberation of Auschwitz. This video documents the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945 by Soviet troops. Warning: not recommended for unprepared audiences due to intensely graphic presentations. (18 minutes), Grades 9-12, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1990
  • The Holocaust: Through Our Own Eyes. This video provides firsthand accounts from Holocaust survivors, as well as liberators of the concentration camps, on the atrocities that took place. Reproducible masters, discussion questions, and activities are also provided. (35 minutes), Grades 7-12, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, 1994
  • Missing Hero: Raoul Wallenberg. The story of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who bravely stands on a deportation train, at the risk of his life, and passes out Swedish passports is told through the testimony of those who were there. (52 minutes), Grades 9-12, BBC
  • Nazi Holocaust Failed in Denmark. 14 Photo aids tell the story of how the Danes protected the Jews from the Nazis during occupation. Grades 6-12, Documentary Aids
  • Number the Stars. The story of a young Jewish girl and her best friend who helps her, along with the Danish Resistance, escape from the Nazis during occupation in 1943. (15 minutes), Grades 3-7
  • The Other Side of Faith. This documentary alternates between the story of a Catholic girl who saved 13 Jews, to dealing with issues such as - Is it right to disobey an unjust law? (27 minutes), Grades 6-12, Documentaries International
  • The Power of Conscience: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews. The story of the Danish resistance to Hitler is told here through compelling interviews and original film footage. The Danish people are credited with saving 7,000 Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust. (55 minutes), Grades 9-12, Direct Cinema Education, 1994
  • Raoul Wallenberg: Between the Lines. This video documents the courage of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat that risked his life in order to save the Jews of Budapest. (85 minutes), Grades 9-12
  • Rescue in Scandinavia. Narrated by Liv Ullman, the story of how the people of Scandinavia helped save 70000 Jews from the Nazis through a kind of underground railroad system. Actual film footage, as well as interviews with rescuers, and the people they rescued aid in the telling of this heroic story. (56 minutes), Grades 7-12, Documentaries International, 1994
  • Schindler. This documentary describes the heroic efforts of Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1000 Jews during the Holocaust. Actual film footage, still photographs and survivors help tell the story. Note: some scenes of atrocities. (82 minutes), Grades 9-12, Thames Television
  • Schindler's List. Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film on the life of Oskar Schindler. A comprehensive teacher's guide is also included. Note: contains graphic violence, strong language, and nudity. (197 minutes), MCA, 1993
  • Teaching Holocaust Studies with the Internet: Internet Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities. Lessons using specific web sites along with reproducible worksheets are provided. Lessons on The Rise of Hitler and Nazism, Life in the Ghettos, Survivors' Stories and others are included. Grades 4-12, Classroom Connect, 1997
  • They Risked Their Lives: Rescuers of the Holocaust. Over 100 Holocaust rescuers from 12 different countries recall their heroic experiences of risking their lives to save Jews during the time of Nazi occupation. (54 minutes), Grades 7-12, Ergo Media, 1992
  • The Upstairs Room. The true story of Annie de Leeuw, a young Jewish Dutch girl, and the Dutch Gentiles who put their lives on the line in order to hide her and her sister from the Nazis. (37 minutes), Grades 5-8, Random House
  • Weapons of the Spirit. The courage of the people in the French village of Le Chambon, who saved 5000 Jewish lives is documented here through film footage, and interviews of the rescuers. (38 minutes), Grades 7-12
  • World War II. Twelve posters by U.S., French, German and British artists are provided to enhance units of study on World War II and propaganda. Grades 6-12, Perfection Learning
  • This bibliography by Mary Mark and Mark Klempner lists film and video resources which discuss the lives and actions of rescuers during the Holocaust.

    Lesson Plans from the Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

    Ideas for Research and Discussion of Anne Frank's Diary. Student activities from the Anne Frank Center USA.

    Deliberate Acts of Kindness. Students recognize and honor the kind acts of Holocaust liberators and rescuers, cultivate their ability to do kind acts, and realize the importance of those acts to others.

    ACTIVITY Eleventh Grade Language Arts Unit.

    The Lily Cupboard. This activity is based on The Lily Cupboardby Shulamith Ley Oppenheim.

    ACTIVITY Number the Stars,by Lois Lowry. New York: Dell 1990

    ACTIVITY Number the Stars. This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.

    ACTIVITY Number the Stars. Florida Atlantic University - Holocaust Outreach Center: Fifth Grade Unit

    ACTIVITY Twenty and Ten: Holocaust Outreach Center - Florida Atlantic University: Fourth Grade Unit.

    Lesson Plans on Other Sites

    The Schindler's List Teaching Guide is available at the Southern Institute for Education and Research site.

    WebLink Assignment: Rescue: The Story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee, an eight-day unit for high school.

    Florida Resource Manual on Holocaust Education

    The following materials from the State of Florida Resource Manual on Holocaust Education, Grades 9-12 will enrich your class's study of this topic. This manual was distributed to all Florida high schools in the spring of 1999 and should be available in your school resource center.

    Vocabulary Unit 8 pages 7-9
    Profile of Rescuers Unit 8 pages 11-12
    Constructing a "Wall of Righteous People" Unit 10 page 61
    Victims of Hate Crime in America Unit 10 pages 84-87

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