Rescue and Liberation

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, many of their victims attempted to emigrate. More left as Germany invaded other countries. Anti-Semitism, immigration quotas, and refusal to understand the plight of many of those fleeing persecution made it difficult for those trying to escape. There were however, small numbers of people in every country who were willing to help. This took great courage in Nazi-controlled Europe. People who hid Jews, for example, were often shot or sent to concentration camps. Yet, a number of people did help harbor refugees.


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.

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

Final Solution (The final solution to the Jewish question in Europe): A Nazi euphemism for the plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Gestapo /geshtahpoh/ : Acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei /gehaime shtahtspolitsai/ , meaning Secret State Police. Prior to the outbreak of war, the Gestapo used brutal methods to investigate and suppress resistance to Nazi rule within Germany. After 1939, the Gestapo expanded its operations into Nazi-occupied Europe.

Ghettos: The Nazis revived the medieval term ghetto to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory "Jewish Quarter." Ghettos were usually established in the poor sections of a city, where most of the Jews from the city and surrounding areas were subsequently forced to reside. Often surrounded by barbed wire or walls, the ghettos were sealed. Established mostly in eastern Europe (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, or Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, malnutrition, and heavy labor. All were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered.

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

Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokauston which meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire. Today, the term refers to the systematic planned extermination of about six million European Jews and millions of others by the Nazis between 1933-1945.

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.

Pogrom: An organized and often officially encouraged massacre of or attack on Jews. The word is derived from two Russian words that mean "thunder."

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.

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 bibliography and introduction is reproduced with the permission of the author, Mary Mark.

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 11,000 rescuers (Fogelman, 1994), and many more 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 Trocme, 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. Trocme 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 labor - 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 occur, and in which Holocausts are less likely to happen.


The bibliography above © Mary Mark:

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

View the "Righteous Among the Nations" bibliography at the Wiesenthal Center site.

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

Suggested readings on Oskar Schindler and other rescuers.

Liberation! Revealing the Unspeakable: A short bibliography of liberation resources.

Raoul Wallenberg: A Selected Bibliography.

Other Resources

Lesson Plans from the Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

ACTIVITY Current Connections. Students explore ways to prevent deception about the Holocaust.

ACTIVITY 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 Holocaust Rescue. This activity will help students understand the perspective of a survivor and/or liberator.

ACTIVITY Human Nature. Students discuss a list of questions related to human nature.

ACTIVITY Liberation and Return to Life. This student activity is designed to familiarize students with survivors and their lives after liberation.

ACTIVITY News Flash! Students create news headlines of the Holocaust.

ACTIVITY Testimony: A Lesson in Creating Poetry. Students create poetry by reformatting Holocaust testimony.

Lesson Plans on Other Sites

WebLink 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.

WebLink Resisters, Rescuers, and Bystanders from Gary M. Grobman's "The Holocaust--A Guide for Teachers."

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 8pages 7-9
Content OverviewUnit 8pages 10-31
Suggested Activities Unit 8 pages 32-33
Correlation to Sunshine State Standards Unit 8 page 34
ActivitiesUnit 8 pages 37-82
Photographs Unit 8 page 85
Testimonies Unit 8pages 89-120

| Nazi Party | Nazification | Ghettos | Camps | Resistance | Liberation | Aftermath |

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.
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