Part II. The 3rd Reich & the Holocaust Era, Jan 1933-May 1945
Perpetrators, Collaborators, Victims, Bystanders, Resisters, Rescuers

B. World War II, Sept. 1939-May, 1945: “New Order” & Holocaust
1. 1939-41: Exporting Nazism - Lebensraum, Racism, Antisemitism & Dehumanization
2. 1941-45: Death by Design & Shoah

THIRTEEN RESPONSES: Rescuers. Bystanders - The "Sounds of Silence"

The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference. IAN KERSHAW

Bauer 303-31; 338-356


*Though the majority of European peoples & nations can be faulted with inactivity, and even at times collaboration with the Nazis, there are many documented reports of the efforts made by individual non-Jews & whole nations who took great risks to save Jews.
*Many people in the Nazi occupied countries stood idly by as millions of people were rounded up and put to their deaths. However, some risked their lives to help the victims of Nazi persecution. Students will read and view photographs relating to several of these compelling stories and will be asked to write reflective essays based on their exploration.


Rescue. The role of Nazi collaborators; and the role of bystanders around the world who chose not to intervene in the persecution and murder of Jews and other victims. United States/World Response.
The Allies & the Holocaust - The role of the bystanders in the Holocaust, the position of the American government in particular, has been seriously questioned in recent years. This relates both to the prewar period, when immigration possibilities were greater, and to the war period when unorthodox types of assistance were required. Evian, Bermuda, and the War Refugee Board are discussed. Could Auschwitz have been bombed?

Issues: The American and world response. Could more have been rescued?
The reactions of the Germans, the European nations under occupation, the Allies ... to the persecution of the Jews and their extermination. In this context the responses of the Churches are analyzed.

Objectives. To examine the rescuers, and the nature of bystander behavior as it occurred in Europe and throughout the world and the impact of bystander behavior on the perpetration of genocide.

INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES - Students will learn that:

1. *The inaction and complicity of the world community reduced the extent to which the Jews could resist the Holocaust.

2. Allies did not bomb the death camps despite full knowledge about what was going on.

3. There were many non-Jews, such as Raoul Wallenberg, who risked their lives to save Jews from destruction.

4. *Though Jews faced repeated obstructions to their efforts to emigrate from Nazi-occupied countries, steps were taken by some nations to rescue Jews, Denmark being the archetypical example.

5. *It is a shameful blemish
on the history of Europe that the systematic murders perpetrated by the Nazis were carried out with the help of local collaborators in many countries and silently accepted by millions of bystanders.

Study Questions

1. Why did Gentiles risk their lives to save the Jews? Who did help the Jews? Describe and explain individuals/nations who worked to save Jews.
2. Explain Denmark success in saving the majority of its Jewish population.
3. Why did people not help the Jews? Why governments refused to get involved

4. Why governments got involved


Chapter Content


Edmund Burke stated: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
‘The educational & moral lessons of the Holocaust have been summed up by the historian, Yehuda Bauer, in the following memorable three-point prohibition:

Do not be a perpetrator
Do not be a victim
Do not be a bystander.

In the view of many commentators, it was the interaction of these very elements -the implacable cruelty & irrationality of the Nazi perpetrator, the overwhelming passivity & compliance of the Jewish victim, and the inaction and indifference of much of the rest of the world- that made possible this unthinkable episode in human history. ... how on earth was it possible for educated ... members of such a highly developed European society as Germany to apply themselves so assiduously to the task of butchering ...’1

Rescue & Heroism

Rescuers are those who, at great personal risk, actively helped members of persecuted groups, primarily Jews, during the Holocaust in defiance of Third Reich policy. They are unique because of the possibility that a member of any one of the other categories could become a rescuer. They were ordinary people who became extraordinary people because they acted in accordance with their own belief systems while living in an immoral society. Thousands survived the Holocaust because of the daring of these rescuers.

*Most non-Jews neither aided nor hindered the Final Solution
. Relatively, few people helped Jews escape. Most individuals in occupied Europe did not actively collaborate in the Nazi genocide. Nor did they do anything to help Jews and other victims of Nazi policies. ... Many of these bystanders told themselves that what they saw happening was none of their business. Others were too frightened to help. Individual people, local, national and international organizations, and even countries, tried to be of some assistance in rescuing Jews.
In a few rare instances, entire communities as well as individuals helped save Jews. They did so at tremendous risk. Their decency often exposed them to death.

Of the 8.86 million Jews who lived in Europe before the Holocaust, it is generally believed that six million perished as a result of Nazi genocide. Hundreds of thousands of others would have joined them were it not for the courageous intervention of a few world leaders and thousands of individuals who risked their lives in order to save Jews from the gas chambers.

Rescue Initiated by Jews

Some Jews survived the ‘Final Solution,’ the Nazi plan to kill the Jews, by hiding or escaping from German-controlled Europe. With the advent of deportations in March 1942, thousands of Jews sought hiding places among the rural population or sought to flee to Switzerland. Buoyed by French protests and humanitarian actions, some Jewish organizations began to place children with Christians, forge identification papers, aid Jews in hiding, and help them cross the Swiss and Spanish borders.

Despite overwhelming odds, more than 4,000 Jews survived in hiding in Berlin; several thousand in the Netherlands; and tens of thousands in occupied Poland, where millions were murdered. Statistics on the number of rescuers and the number of those saved are very incomplete, but more than 100,000 Jews were assisted or saved by these courageous men and women in occupied Europe.

*While world leaders, popes, presidents, and prime ministers remained silent
on the fate of millions, these courageous individuals risked their lives to shelter the persecuted.
Pictures: Danish Jews on their way to safety in Sweden. Museum of Denmark's Fight ...

The Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles
The horrors of the Holocaust are so numerous, and so overwhelming, that the occasional heroic act often goes unnoticed or is forgotten. Researchers did not even begin to seriously study the many instances of rescue during the Holocaust until decades after the end of WWII. Still, it is imperative that the world recognize and remember the stories of those who helped save Nazi victims from persecution. ... to present these virtuous heroes as plausible and relevant models of moral activism. Students should observe these heroic people not as idealized superhuman figures, but as average decent human beings who expressed a normal response to tyranny. The purpose of teaching students about those rescuers who saved thousands from Nazi genocide, is to help students understand how the human values of kindness, dignity, and compassion stayed alive during the most trying of circumstances; to see that each individual possesses the heart, power, and strength to make a difference in the fight against hatred and oppression. This sentiment is reflected in the inscription on the medals awarded to Righteous Gentiles: "Whoever saves a single soul, it is as if he had saved the whole world."

A Righteous Few: Survival in Hiding and Rescue

Someone cared someone thought we were human beings worth saving. Susan Tabor, Survivor

*Ordinary but courageous men and women ... showed compassion in helping Jewish victims of the Nazis. ‘Despite the indifference of many Europeans and the collaboration of others in the murder of Jews, thousands risked their lives to help Jews. Rescue of Jews took many forms.’2 ... a small number of individuals refused to stand by and watch. These people had the courage to help by providing hiding places, underground escape routes, false papers, food, ration cards, clothing, money, and sometimes even weapons, finding employment, accepting Jews into underground ...

‘Apart from the desire of profit, which operated with many people who gave shelter or aid to Jews, a strong humanitarian motive also prevailed.’3 Those who did aid Jews were motivated by opposition to Nazi racism, by compassion, political ideologies, personal friendship, or by religious or moral principle.

Rescuers possessed an inner core of unshakable values and beliefs. Social psychologist Dr. Eva Fogelman describes Hitler's twelve-year reign in Conscience and Courage:

It was a reign which, nearly half a century later, still challenges our
understanding. Evil was rewarded and good acts were punished. Bullies were
aggrandized and the meek trampled. In this mad world, most people lost their
bearings. Fear disoriented them, and self-protection blinded them. A few, however,
did not lose their way. A few took their direction from their own moral compass..

Any person caught hiding a Jew was immediately shot on the spot or taken out to be publicly hanged by the S.S.

*The Gestapo routinely offered a bounty for those who turned in Jews
who were hiding. This bounty consisted of a quart of liquor, four pounds of sugar, a carton of cigarettes, or, at times, small cash payments. For many civilians, these commodities were unobtainable through normal channels, and thus they were provided with a powerful incentive to cooperate with the Gestapo above and beyond any hatred they may have harbored against the Jews.- At a time when living space, food, sanitation facilities, & medicine were at a premium, those who hid Jews from the Nazis sacrificed a great deal .... Their behavior was atypical in their communities, where the majority of people were indifferent or collaborated in the persecution and murder of their Jewish neighbors.

*Righteous Gentiles

*Those non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, are honored by Yad Vashem as the "Righteous Among The Nations," and became known as the
‘Righteous Gentiles.’ They were the exceptions to the rule. There are thousands of stories of great valor which will never be told because the Nazis executed many of these Righteous Gentiles. By saving Jews, these people proved that rescue was possible and by so doing they enhanced the dignity of humanity. More than 8,000 such people have been honored.’ It is imperative that the world recognize and remember the stories of the "Righteous Gentiles."

*Yad Vashem

There is a museum in Israel, called Yad Vashem, devoted exclusively to the history of the Holocaust. The walkway which terminates at the museum entrance is lined with carob trees, each dedicated to the memory of a ‘Righteous Gentile.’ There are more than 600 of these trees. A special committee considers cases of additions to this arbor, & there are more than 2,000 cases pending. Those who are added to the list receive a certificate & a medal (or the presentation is made to that person's representative) with the Talmudic inscription ‘Whoever saves a single soul, it is as if he had saved the entire world.’ A tree is then planted on the walkway, marked by a plaque bearing the name & nationality of the Righteous Gentile .
‘A number of individuals used their personal influence to rescue Jews.’

*Varian Fry

An unlikely American secret agent who traveled to France in June of 1940 to help smuggle Jews through the tightly controlled French borders, with money, & false passports. He is credited with saving the lives of two to three thousand people

*Oskar Schindler

‘The Sudeten German industrialist Oskar Schindler established an enamel works outside the Krakow ghetto, Poland, and protected Jewish workers employed therein from deportation:’
Oskar Schindler, a supposed Nazi sympathizer who decided that Hitler's violent campaign of murder was profoundly morally wrong. Schindler began to intercede from within the German system itself. He outsmarted the SS and the Gestapo by secretly harboring thousands of Jews in his factory. Schindler's factory employed Jewish workers and thus saved many who were targeted for deportation to the concentration camps.
Oskar Schindler’s personal initiative and courage cost him dearly financially, but his life-saving mission rescued men, women, and children from certain death in the gas chambers. His name will never be forgotten as a heroic Righteous Gentile. Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed movie, Schindler’s List.


In Poland, there were also instances of Poles seeking to aid Jews. Zegota, the Polish underground organization which provided for the social welfare needs of Jews, began operations in1942. Members of the nationalist Polish Home Army and the communist Polish People's Army attacked German positions during the Warsaw ghetto uprising in April 1943. However, the Polish underground provided only a minimal amount of ammunition to Jewish fighters. (

Dr. Jan Karski
He was the contact between the Polish resistance and the Polish government in exile; sought to draw attention to Nazi plans to murder the Jews. He was smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto to hear what was occurring there. Asked to tell the story to the rest of the world, he reported on his experience to other world leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Government officials in the United States did not act upon Karski's warning.’

Cardinal Archbishop of Lwow (Count Andreas Szeptycki) - He was a member of the Polish Catholic hierarchy who ordered that the clergy reporting to him act to save Jews.
About 20,000 Polish Jews were able to survive in hiding outside the ghetto in Warsaw because people provided shelter for them in their homes. Some Jews were even hidden in the Warsaw Zoo by the zoo's director, Jan Zabinski.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski founder of the Polish resistance who organized an underground organization, comprised mostly of Catholics, to save Jews. He worked to provide false documents to Jews living outside the Warsaw ghetto. In the fall of 1942, he helped found an organization (Council for Aid to Jews) which successfully saved many Jews from the gas chambers.
‘Some European churches, orphanages, and families provided hiding places for Jews, and in some cases, individuals aided Jews already in hiding (such as Anne Frank and her family in the
Netherlands). In France, the Protestant population of the small village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon sheltered several thousand Jews, one of many examples of acts of rescue in France, Belgium, and Italy.’ Nearly 12,000 Jewish children were rescued by clergymen in France who found housing for them and even smuggled some into Switzerland & Spain.

Rescue - Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France

Despite widespread support of German policies, individual French citizens (particularly among the French Protestants and the Quakers) aided, sheltered or rescued Jews. The village of Le Chambon-Sur Lignon was a center for smuggling thousands of Jews to safety. As of 1993, Yad Vashem honored 1,011 French rescuers as "Righteous Among the Nations.

Some Jews escaped to the Italian zone, but this protective screen was shattered in September 1943, when the Germans took it over. Other Jews escaped to Spain or Switzerland, and thousands were assisted by a small but sympathetic element in the French population, like the Protestant village of LE CHAMBON - SUR - LIGNON.

*The residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a Protestant village in southern France, helped thousands of refugees, including about 5,000 Jews, escape Nazi persecution between 1941 and 1944. Though they knew the danger, they were resolute, inspired by religious conviction and a sense of moral duty. Refugees, including many children, were hidden in private homes and also in nearby Catholic convents and monasteries. Resident of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon also helped smuggle refugees to neutral Switzerland.

Pastor Andre Trocme and Daniel Trocme
- Pastor Trocme was the religious leader of the Huguenot village of LeChambon-sur-Lignon, France, which hid and saved 5,000 Jews. Teacher Daniel Trocme was deported with his students in the only successful Gestapo raid and died in Maidanek. (check website:

‘A small number of American religious groups were involved in rescue efforts. The Quakers' American Friends Service Committee coordinated relief activities for Jewish refugees in France, Portugal, and Spain. The Committee also obtained entry visas into the United States for Jewish children in France.’

*Denmark, 1943

Introduction. The most notable rescue took place in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The rescue of Denmark's 8,000 Jews serves as an example of
an entire nation mobilized to rescue humanity from the abyss of German terror. ... citizens of Denmark resisted the war against the Jews, unlike most of their European neighbors.
Denmark was the only occupied country that actively resisted the Nazi regime's attempts to deport its Jewish citizens.

The Danish people and government protected the Jews during WWII. A September 1943 decision by the Nazi occupiers of Denmark to round up all Danish Jews for shipment to the death camps was thwarted. In October 1943 Danish authorities were alerted to an impending SS roundup of Danish Jews. Danes from all walks of life mobilized whatever would float and ferried 5,900 Jews, 1,300 part-Jews, and 700 Christians married to Jews to safety in Sweden - The Danish resistance organized the rescue operation, in which Danish fishermen ferried some 7,200 Jews (of the country's total Jewish population of 7,800) to safety in neutral Sweden. (About 120 perished because of Nazi persecution (less than 2). Oct. 1 1943, about 500 Jews were left in Denmark; they were arrested and sent to Theresienstadt, among them some Zionist youth and Youth Aliya people. Yet even of these Jews, all but 51 survived the Holocaust, largely because Danish officials pressured the Germans with their concerns for the well-being of those who had been deported. The Danes proved that widespread support for Jews and resistance to Nazi policies could save lives.

Historians have pondered why the citizens of Denmark resisted the war against the Jews, unlike most of their European neighbors. One reason is that Denmark did not have a history of antisemitism. Another was that nearby was neutral Sweden, willing to accept the Jews that could be saved.

Several other governments resisted Nazi deportation orders, including Finland, Hungary, and Italy. Several embassies in Hungary acted in concert to issue passports to Jews at risk.

HUNGARY. Rescue Activities

The plight of the Jews during this period was eased by the heroism of many. The Relief and Rescue Committee Budapest, under the leadership of Reszo Kasztner and Otto Komoly, engaged in a variety of rescue activities, including negotiations with the Germans. Zionist youth saved many lives by forging and distributing various types of documents and by supplying the ghetto with food. In concert with Jewish activists, similar rescue activities were undertaken by the representatives of the neutral states, the Vatican and the International Red Cross, who were backed by the War Refugee Board. Jews under their protection were put into a special "international" ghetto. Chief among the rescuers were Raoul Wallenberg of the Swedish delegation and Charles Lutz of the Swiss delegation. Many Jews, especially children, owed their lives to the activities of those associated with various Christian orders and the International Red Cross, headed by Friedrich Born.

*The Jews of Hungary. Raoul Wallenberg

‘In Budapest, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, and Italian citizen Giorgio Perlasca provided tens of thousands of Jews with falsified "protective passes" that exempted them from most anti-Jewish measures and from deportation:’

With the change in Sweden's political situation and the creation in the United States of the War Refugee Board, the Swedish government took decisive measures to help rescue the Jews of Hungary. At the end of June 1944, King Gustav V sent a firm message to Miklos Horthy, deploring the deportation of Hungarian Jewry. In the meantime, Raoul Wallenberg was assigned to the Swedish delegation in Budapest to rescue Jews. Wallenberg's efforts, along with those of other members of the Swedish delegation and members of the Swedish Red Cross, contributed to the rescue of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.

*Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat
who made it a special, personal mission to help save the Jews of Hungary; printed Swedish passports and handed them to Hungarian Jews being transported to the East in the summer and fall of 1944. More than 30,000 Jews received special Swedish passports from Wallenberg. The Swedish blue and gold protective passport, Schutzpass saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews;* because Sweden was a neutral country, Germany could not easily harm Swedish citizens.
He set up "safe houses," distributed food and medical supplies, and virtually single-handedly set up a bureaucracy in Budapest, Hungary's capital, designed to protect Jews.
Wallenberg set up hospitals, nurseries, and soup kitchens for the Jews of Budapest.
More than 90,000 Budapest Jews were deported to the death camps and murdered, and Wallenberg's efforts may have reduced the number of those murdered by half. As a diplomat, he successfully confronted the Nazis at great risk to his own safety.

Following the "liberation" of Budapest by the Soviets, he was arrested by them, thrown in prison, and never heard from again.
He was seen for the last time in the company of Soviet troops on January 17, 1945. Reports often surface, unconfirmed, that he is still alive, although the Soviets announced his death two years after his arrest. Ten years later, the Soviet Union admitted that he had been arrested and claimed that he died in prison in 1947.
He is honored by having his name given to the street on which the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum resides.

"In late October...Arrow-Cross gangs rounded up Jews from the ghetto houses between the ages of 14 and 65. My mother and I were taken on that first round- up...The armed guards forced us to march quickly: those who could not keep up were shot...We were herded into a brick factory...Armed Nazis walked around stepping on people, abusing them, cursing and shooting...Then suddenly, at one end of the building, we saw people in civilian clothes with a loudspeaker and flashlights-and there was Raoul Wallenberg...Can you fathom the impact of what his being there meant to us?" Susan Tabor, Survivor

Spain and Portugal

As many as 40,000 Jews who were able to make their way to Spain and Portugal were saved from the Nazi death camps. More than 20,000 Jews made their way into Switzerland, but many thousands were turned back, according to Michael Marrus' Holocaust in History.

In 1940, as a superior of the Bayonne consul, Aristides de Sousa Mendes disobeyed his government's orders and issued visas enabling Jewish refugees to pass through Spain to Portugal. Dismissed for disobedience, his pension revoked, he died impoverished. Honored by Yad Vashem posthumously, as of 1993, he is Portugal's only "Righteous Among the Nations."


‘Bulgarian government plans to deport the Jews of Bulgaria in the spring of 1943 faltered due to energetic intervention by key political and religious figures in Bulgaria; this activity induced the Bulgarian king, Boris III, to cancel the deportation:’
Forty-eight thousand Jews in Bulgaria were also spared the horror of the gas chambers as a result of the courage of the Bulgarian people. A public outcry by Bulgarian church officials and others against a deportation order directed at all Jews forced the Bulgarian government to rescind its order. Jews who had been rounded up in Bulgarian-occupied Thrace and Macedonia were not as lucky; virtually all perished in the Holocaust.

*Great Britain

Between 1933-1945, Britain was an important refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi-controlled Europe. Jewish organizations did all they could to help, but as the numbers increased it became more difficult. It is estimated that over 80,000 Jewish refugees reached Britain, and 55,000 stayed.

*Kindertransports From: RW - On BBC Radio 4 on Saturday evening, the 21st, Aug. is the following: 8:00 pm (UK Time, 1900 GMT, 2100 Central Europe Time) 60 minutes News, then The Archive Hour: Kindertransport Sixty years ago, Britain gave refuge to children from Nazi Europe, saved by the Kindertransports - trains from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and elsewhere. The parents were left behind - most were killed in the concentration camps. In 1939, BBC Radio recorded a program in which newly arrived children told their story. Now, historian Dr David Cesarani interviews some of the children again.

Italy. Aid to Jews

During World War II the Italians, more than most other peoples in Europe, extended aid to the Jews. From the beginning of the war to mid 1942, the Italian authorities gave protection to Jews of Italian nationality living in German occupied territories or in countries in the German sphere of influence. In occupied France, 15,000 Jews of Italian nationality, and in Tunisia, 5,500, were protected. Jews were also protected in Salonika and the satellite states in the Balkans and the Danube basin.

Why did Gentiles risk their lives to save the Jews?

* religious beliefs and humanitarian concerns
* resistance against the Nazis regardless of feelings about the Jews
* payment provided by Jews who were hidden

Why governments got involved? * public pressure from the world community
* humanitarian concerns

Other Responses. The World Response

The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference

*Why did people not help the Jews?
* anti-Semitism
* fear of reprisals
* didn't want to get involved in the problems of others

It was ... the supreme indifference ... of most Germans that would permit the fanaticism of a relative few to wreak such havoc. Indifference is, in most societies, a neutral force which can be harnessed either for good or ill by those who hold the reins of power. ... However, the indirect impact of the majority who, through their silence may condone or rubber-stamp the decisions and policies of others, should not be underestimated. Nor should it be overlooked that silence or indifference is a choice that individuals make. This, surely is one of the central lessons of the Nazi era.”4

‘While six million Jews were being systematically and brutally massacred by the Nazis during WWII, most of the world stood by silent. The efforts of those who did try to respond were often frustrated by restrictive governmental policies and apathetic officials in the major Western countries, such as U.S. and Great Britain.’

The Bystanders

Bystanders were ordinary people who played it safe. As private citizens, they complied with the laws and tried to avoid the terrorizing activities of the Nazi regime. They wanted to get on with their daily lives. During the war, the collective world's response toward the murder of millions of people was minimal.’ Worldwide forces that might have acted to prevent the implementation of this horrific plan -‘the Final Solution’ - were either inadequate, slow to act, under-informed, disbelieving, or downright unwilling to adjust their priorities in order to save Jewish lives.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the civilized world was shocked to see photographs of unimaginable horror; skeletons of victims stacked in piles of hundreds and thousands, living skeletons describing unspeakable brutality and atrocity, and searching for the truth as to what would permit this to occur without intervention. Could an event of this magnitude have occurred without the knowledge of the Allies? If the Allied governments knew this was taking place, why was nothing done? Why was there such deathly silence?

National Responses (Immigration Policies)

*Deteriorating economic conditions
contributed to the political and social climate which both launched World War II and fueled the antisemitism which encouraged the destruction of the Jews of Europe. These same economic conditions world-wide resulted in barriers placed against those potential Jewish immigrants who sought refuge from the Nazi terror.

*Anti-Jewish sentiment
in France, England, and even the United States resulted in hundreds of thousands of European Jews being denied a safe haven, which meant virtually certain death. Simple indifference to the plight of Jews, according to many historians, also played a role in the events which led to the Holocaust.

Thousands of Jews in Germany were successful in fleeing before the onset of hostilities in 1939, especially in the early years of the Nazi period. Many of these refugees were able to find their way aboard ships headed for American ports. There are, however, tragic stories of these ships being turned away by immigration officials, and their occupants returned to Europe to face the gas chambers (story about the St. Louis Voyage). Each nation had its own story of how its government and citizens responded to the horrors of the Holocaust. The following are capsules of some of these stories.

The U.S. and the Holocaust

‘During WW II, US State Department officials barred the immigration to the US of European Jews and tried to silence news of Nazi extermination of the Jews.’
Despite the fact that the U.S. received early reports about the desperate plight of European Jewry, procrastination and inaction marked its policies toward rescue. Immigration quotas were never increased for the emergency; the existing quotas, in fact, were never filled (see Evian Conference).

*Wagner-Rogers legislation

- Legislation was introduced
in the United States Congress in 1939 by Rep. Robert Wagner to admit a total of 20,000 Jewish children over a two-year period above the refugee quota applicable at the time. The legislation was inspired by similar efforts by the Dutch and British government to save Jewish children from Nazi terror. The legislation was amended in committee to admit the 20,000 children only if the number of Jewish refugees admitted under the regular quota was reduced by 20,000. The bill died in the House after the sponsor withdrew his support for the bill in frustration. The American press had printed scores of articles detailing mistreatment of the Jews in Germany:

*By 1942, many of these newspapers were reporting details of the Holocaust
, stories about the mass murder of Jews in the millions. For the most part, these articles were only a few inches long, and were buried deep in the newspaper. These reports were either denied or unconfirmed by the United States government. When the United States government did receive irrefutable evidence that the reports were true, U.S. government officials suppressed the information. U.S. reconnaissance photos of the Birkenau camp in 1943 showed the lines of victims moving into the gas chambers, confirming other reports. The War Department insisted that the information be kept classified.
Photographs of mass graves and mass murder, smuggled out under the most dangerous of circumstances, were also classified as secret.

*British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill called for the death camp at Auschwitz to be bombed. He was ignored. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews could have been saved had the Allies agreed to bomb the death camps or the rail lines which were feeding them.
In September 1944, the British bombed factories and the railroad lines of Auschwitz.
Escaped prisoners from the death camps filed reports on what was occurring. Again, many of these reports were suppressed.

*Eventually, President Roosevelt,
under pressure from the public, agreed to issue a statement condemning the German government for its genocidal policy against the Jews. Other support followed.

Bermuda Conference

As the Germans advanced through Europe, more Jews & others who were targets of Nazi racial policies came under Nazi control. By 1943 the war had created millions of refugees in Europe. The Bermuda Conference, jointly sponsored by the United States & Great Britain, was held in Bermuda in April 1943 to discuss solutions to the refugee problem; conference failed. As Michael Marrus writes in
The Holocaust in History,

"At the Bermuda Conference ...the British and Americans proved most adept at postponing serious efforts to change matters. By this point, opinion was mobilized on behalf of several schemes for rescue and refuge. Such views were deflected, however; the press was kept at arm's length and little was achieved."

*War Refugee Board, 1944

It was not until late in the war that the United States attempted to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, presented a report to President Roosevelt in 1943 providing details about the Final Solution. It was not until January 1944, however, that the President responded by establishing the War Refugee Board as an independent agency to rescue the civilian victims of the Nazis. (Although confirmed reports of the mass murders of Jews had reached the U.S. State Department in 1942, officials had remained silent. During the war the State Department had insisted that the best way to save victims of Nazi Germany’s policies was to win the war as quickly as possible. The War Refugee Board worked with Jewish organizations, diplomats from neutral countries, and resistance groups in Europe to rescue Jews from occupied territories and provide relief to inmates of Nazi concentration camps.)

By then in 1944, most of these civilian victims had already been murdered. The Board joined a plea to the Hungarian Regent, Admiral from Great Britain, Sweden, the Pope, and the International Red Cross to stop the deportations of Hungarian Jews. While Admiral Horthy agreed on July 8, ‘44 to discontinue the deportations, fewer than 200,000 Jews of the original number of more than 600,000 remained. Thousands of those permitted this reprieve from the death camps were eventually saved through the efforts of Wallenberg & other diplomats.

The War Refugee Board played a crucial role in the rescue of as many as 200,000 Jews. However, some people still wonder how many more Jews might have been saved if the rescue missions had begun sooner.

*Great Britain

Although there were a number of differences between Britain and the Arab leaders, Britain decided that the conflict in Palestine was the most significant cause of Anglo - Arab disagreement.
*The 1939 British white paper on Palestine, limiting Jewish immigration and the sale of land to Jews ... was in part an attempt to win Arab support in the inevitable war against Germany. Appeasement ... failed in the Middle East, just as it had failed in Europe.

4/25/44. Desperate for war material, the Nazis offered the British a million Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks. When asked why he had refused to negotiate the deal, a British diplomat responded, "What would I do with one million Jews? Where would I put them?"

*Why governments refused to get involved
* did not believe the Holocaust was occurring
* had leaders which were anti-Semitic
* did not feel saving Jews would have any benefit to the war effort
* felt that all war efforts to defeat the Germans would be the best response to stopping German atrocities against the Jews

*Could actions of the Allies have prevented the Holocaust or limited the destruction of six million Jews and five million other innocent civilians? There is no question that the silence and inaction of the world community in the face of irrefutable evidence resulted in the senseless loss of millions of lives.

*The Vatican. Pope Pius XII

‘... accusation of callous insensitivity to the plight of the Jews- has been focused upon the behavior of the Pope & the Catholic Church as a whole. During the war the Vatican ... was officially neutral. ... felt vulnerable to Nazi aggression ... the official Catholic Church tended to adopt, at best, a silent posture ... The principal accusation leveled against Pope Pius XII is that, in the face of countless appeals, he consistently refused to speak out against the Nazis’ policy of annihilation. The Pope requested that his diplomats help hide Hungarian Jews.

Rolf Hochhuth’s drama, The Deputy

*It is a searing attack on Pope Pius XII whom Hochhut accuses of dereliction of duty. Through his characters, the author asks provocative questions about the church’s responsibility, providing an important work by which students can explore the issues of action and inaction.” (New Perspectives on the Holocaust - A Guide for Teachers and Scholars. Edited by Rochelle L. Millen with Timothy A. Bennett, Jack D. Mann, Joseph E. O’Connor, and Robert P. Welker. New York and London: New York University Press, 1996, 155).

Many other European governments not only complied with the demand of the Germans to deport Jews to the death camps but facilitated the deportations.


Pre-war France had a Jewish population of over 300,000, out of a total population of 45 million. Many thousands of these were refugees, and only about 150,000 were native Frenchmen. In May 1940, the German army invaded France and occupied three-fifths of the country in accordance with an armistice signed on June 22nd 1940.

*A government was formed in unoccupied France at Vichy. The Vichy government was dominated by advocates for cooperation with the Germans. Many of the decrees of the Vichy government in 1940-41 paralleled the anti-Jewish edicts of Germany in the mid-1930s. Jewish property was expropriated, and Jews were stripped of their basic civil rights. Non-native French Jews were singled out in October 1940 for internment in labor camps, which resulted in a large number of deaths. In March 1942, the Germans began deporting Jews from the occupied zones in France to the death camps. In July of that same year, they demanded that all Jews be rounded up in unoccupied France for deportation. The Vichy government decided to protect French Jews, but handed over 15,000 foreign Jews from the internment camps for deportation to the death camps. Many hundreds of other Jews were executed, as described in Lucy Dawidowicz's The War Against the Jews, in reprisal for partisan activities. By the time France was liberated, 90,000 of the pre-war Jewish population in France had been killed.


Collaborator - One who cooperates reasonably with the action of an enemy.

Bounty - A reward, premium or subsidy, especially when offered or given by a government. A payment for the capture of an "outlaw." The Gestapo offered a bounty to those who turned in Jews in hiding.

Righteous Gentiles - Non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from being murdered by the Nazis.

Wagner-Rogers Legislation - Legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1939 by Rep. Robert Wagner to admit a total of 20,000 Jewish children over a two-year period above the refugee quota applicable at the time.

War Refugee Board - Established by President Roosevelt in January of 1944 after receiving a report by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, providing details about the "Final Solution." The Board was to take whatever steps were necessary to rescue the civilian victims of the Holocaust.



... Another question relates to the Poles' attitudes and reaction to the murder on Polish territory of millions of Jews who were Polish citizens. The Polish underground did not undertake any military action to help the Jews or to sabotage the Nazi deportation and murder operations; but neither did it take such action to liberate non - Jewish Poles from any of the many camps in which they were imprisoned. Ten of thousands of Jews escaped from the ghettos and sought refuge or some means of existence in Polish cities and villages; in Warsaw and its environs alone, twenty thousand Jews looked for a safe haven. For Poles, saving Jews was much more difficult and dangerous than in any of the occupied countries of western Europe. Tens of thousand of Jews also escaped to the forests. But because there was no organized Polish partisan movement and because of the prevailing hostility toward Jews in the rural areas, most of the escapees could not save themselves.

Polish Aid to Jews.

Before October and November 1942, no clandestine public organization existed in Poland to extend help to the Jews. The help that was given was on a personal basis and resulted from individual political ties or was in exchange for large sums of money. It was only in late 1942 and early 1943 that a provisional council for aid to the Jews was set up, which later became the permanent Council for Aid to Jews (Rada Pomocy Zydom, known as ZEGOTA). This organization was recognized by the Polish underground institutions and had their support. Several thousand Jews were taken care of and protected by Zegota, which was made up of Poles belonging to the Polish political center and left, some of whom were totally dedicated to their task. Thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews, and later they were officially recognized as "RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS" by YAD VASHEM in Jerusalem. Many Poles and their families paid with their lives for saving Jews; persons who helped Jews jeopardized the members of their households, and in quite a few instances the Germans executed family members of Poles who had saved Jews or had tried to do so.

There also existed various gangs of Poles, some of them underworld types, who
methodically almost professionally, engaged in uncovering Jews who were in hiding or
were posing as non - Jews, extorting money and possessions from them and handing them
over to the Germans.

March 1 ‘41

(50,000 Jews) Country in the Balkan Peninsula containing people of mixed origin, 806f whom were peasants up to the end of WWII. Jews lived only in cities, were occupied in trade and professions, and were autonomous financially. The rural population hardly knew the Jews and displayed little, if any antisemitism. During the war, it was a Nazi satellite nation, ruled by a fascist government under King Boris.

On February 22, 1943, an agreement was signed in Sofia between Belev and Adolf Eichmann's representative in Bulgaria, SS - Hauptsturmfuhrer Theodor Dannecker. The agreement provided that "as a first step, twenty thousand Jews will be deported to German territories in the east." The Blockage of Further Deportations. Forced Labor

Rescue Efforts and Acts of Resistance - A Haven in Palestine

Prior to Bulgaria's alliance with Germany in April 1941, several attempts were made to save Jews without Bulgarian nationality, as well as groups of children and Zionist youth. "Illegal" immigration (Aliya bet) ships left Bulgaria for Palestine. The first such ship, the Salvador, left Varna on December 4, 1940, only to sink twelve days later off the coast of Turkey because it was unseaworthy. Of the 335 refugees on board, 213 drowned, while 122 were saved and made their way to Palestine. Another 170 Jews from Bulgaria joined other Palestine - bound Jewish refugees on a Romanian ship, the Dorian, in late February 1941, and a month later a group of 65 children left for Palestine. From April 1941 until late 1943, the borders of Bulgaria were hermetically sealed for Jewish emigration.

In late 1943, Chaim Weizmann and Rabbi Stephen wise, in London and Washington respectively, worked on plans for rescuing Bulgarian Jewry by transporting them to Palestine via Turkey. In Sofia, secret contacts concerning these plans were handled by the Swiss delegation, and in Istanbul they were in the hands of Ira Hirschmann, representative of the war refugee board. The fact that the Allied powers were taking interest in the fate of the Jews of Bulgaria induced the Sofia government to moderate its Jewish policy. Finally, in August 1944, it repealed the anti - Jewish legislation. On September 9, when the Soviet army entered Bulgaria, the new antifascist government that had by then been established declared war on Nazi Germany.


A few dozen Jewish youths joined the partisan units, and some of them fell in battles with the Bulgarian gendarmerie. Among those killed in action who had gained renown for their heroism were Emil Shekerdzhiiski, Violeta Iakova, Mati Rubenov, Menachem Papo, and Yosif Talvi.

The Special Situation of Bulgarian Jewry

The special situation in Bulgaria in those years has not been fully researched, and the question of who was responsible for saving the Jews has yet to be resolved. The Jewish community of Denmark was the other community under the Nazis that was saved, but this was because they
were moved to Sweden by a concerted effort of the Danish people. In Bulgaria the Jews survived in a country that was in the pro - German camp. Thus far, the answers given to this question have been colored by ideological bias and for the most part have not been based on reliable and conclusive evidence.

Toward an Assessment of the Rescue of Bulgarian Jewry

The question of how Bulgarian Jews were saved has two aspects:

(1) Who gave the orders to postpone the deportations in March and May 1943, and to refrain from deporting the Jews in the fall of 1943?

(2) What were the motives for these decisions?

A rare combination of international circumstances and internal pressures influenced the king's behavior. However, it would be difficult to assess the specific weight of each of these factors, which together saved the lives of fifty thousand Bulgarian Jews.

Country in northwestern Europe. Jews first settled there in 1622. On the eve of the war about 7,800 Jews lived in Denmark; some 6,000 native Jews and the rest refugees, among them several hundred Youth Aliyah children and Zionist youth. Between 1934 and 1938 the regulations applying to refugees were tightened and most of the 4,500 Jews who reached Denmark's shores did not stay. In the first years following the German occupation (on April 9, 1940), the situation of the Jews remained unchanged. The Danes did not offer any real resistance to the Germans, and reached agreement with them on the continued operation of the country's democratic institutions, and even its army.

Resistance Operations

A change came in the spring of 1943 when in the light of allied victories, Danish resistance operations gathered momentum. Strikes and sabotage acts created tension between the Danes and the Germans, and the "Jewish question" was put on the agenda. The Zionist youth, became aware of the changing situation and made plans for escaping from the country. An attempt by some to reach the coast of southern Europe by hiding under train carriages failed; but a group of Zionist youth fishermen on Bornholm Island obtained a boat and used it to flee to Sweden.

The Decision to Deport the Jews

Late in August 1943 the Danish government resigned after refusing to accede to new demands made by the German. Best thought the moment opportune to propose to Berlin that the Jews be deported. Then he had second thoughts about the matter, fearing his own relations with the Danes would be compromised.

The Rescue of Danish Jewry

On the night of October 1 - 2, 1943, the German police began arresting Jews. Reports of the planned deportation had been leaked to various Danish circles by several German sources, among them the German delegation's attach for shipping affairs, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz. The reaction was spontaneous, the Danes alerted the Jews, helped them reach the sea shore, and, with the aid of Danish fishermen, cross to Sweden. Soon the Danish resistance joined in and helped to organize the massive flight that followed the Swedish government's proclamation that it would take in all refugees from Denmark. King Christian X and the heads of the Danish churches protested to the Germans against the deportation. In the course of three weeks seventy-two hundred Jews and some seven hundred non-Jewish relatives of theirs were taken to Sweden.

Aid to Deported Jews

The Danish rescue effort was unique because it was nationwide.
Rolf Gunther - Adolf Eichmann's deputy - failed in his mission to deport the Jews of Denmark. Nevertheless about 500 Jews were arrested and sent to Theresienstadt, among them some Zionist youth and Youth Aliya people. The Danes sent parcels to the deportees. The Foreign Ministry bombarded the Germans with warnings, and demanded that a Danish delegation be allowed to visit Theresienstadt. A fake "model ghetto" was set up there when the Danes and an International Red Cross delegation visited in the summer of 1944. Nonetheless, Danish Jews were not deported to Auschwitz and most were transferred to Sweden just before the war ended in an operation carried out under Count Folke Bernadotte. The Danish concern for the Jews has aroused profound admiration, and its echo reverberates to this day.

SWEDEN. A Policy of Neutrality

Sweden pursued a policy of political neutrality from the mid - nineteenth century onward. It remained neutral during World War I and wanted to maintain a strictly neutral position during World War II.

Toward a Pro - Allied Neutrality
The defeats suffered by the Germans in North Africa at the end of 1942 and at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 - 1943 enabled Sweden to evince a more favorable policy toward the western Allies. In May 1943, Sweden succeeded in reestablishing trade relations with the Allies. On July 29 of that year, the Swedes declared that Germany could no longer transfer soldiers or war materiel across Sweden. The Germans, now interested in keeping Sweden from joining the Allies, acceded to this demand. By 1944 Swedish policy favored the Allies, without, however, interrupting the trade with Germany.

The Rescue of Jews
In 1930 seven thousand Jews lived in Sweden. The authorities limited immigration through a law that went into effect on January 1, 1938. The policy was waived once, was when 500 Jewish children from Germany were allowed to enter Sweden, at the urging of Swedish women. When the Germans began to mark Jewish passports with a capital J, the Swedes used this mark to discriminate against Jews; they were given transit visas only. Jews who arrived in Sweden from Germany without a visa were forced to return to Germany. Thousands of Jewish refugees applied for permission to immigrate or for temporary residence, and most were turned down. In the 1930s, Swedish Jews established several refugee relief committees, some in cooperation with non - Jews.

Aid to its Neighbors - Norwegian Jews
During the war, Sweden tried to help its neighbors, within the confines of its neutrality. Tens of thousands of Norwegians and Finns, among them twenty thousand Finnish children, were taken in by Swedish families. While the Nazi deportations from Norway were under way in the early winter of 1942, nine hundred Norwegian Jews (over half of the Jewish community) managed to escape to Sweden. The Swedish Foreign Ministry also facilitated the entry into Sweden of Jews and non - Jews who had Swedish relatives. Through the Swedish consul in Oslo, Claes Adolf Hjalmar Westring, in February 1943 about fifty Norwegian Jews were able to reach Sweden this way. However, few Jews from other countries benefited from this.

The Jews of Denmark
In the spring of 1943, the Jewish Agency convinced the Swedish government to admit twenty thousand Jewish children from occupied countries. Owing to the deterioration in Swedish - German relations, the scheme was never raised with the Germans. That fall, Georg Duckwitz, a member of the German delegation in Copenhagen, met with Swedish Prime Minister Hansson to solicit Swedish help in saving others Jews - those of Denmark. As a result the Swedish minister in Berlin, Arvid Richert, submitted a proposal to the Germans that called for the placement of Danish Jews in camps in Sweden. The Germans never responded to the suggestion, and the Swedish government reacted by publicly announcing its readiness to accept all Danish Jewish refugees. This announcement served as a kind of official authorization for the rescue effort launched by the Danes. The Swedish Jewish community also played a significant role in this rescue. Following the successful rescue operation, some nine thousand Danish Christians also reached Sweden, as did about one hundred Finnish Jews.

Aid to Concentration Camp Inmates
As the war drew to an end, the Swedes launched an operation for the rescue of Scandinavian nationals in concentration camps in the Reich. They succeeded in having these prisoners handed over to the Swedish Red Cross. At the same time, under the leadership of the chairman of the Swedish branch of the World Jewish Congress, Hillel Storch, food parcels were sent to Jews in concentration camps; mostly to Bergen - Belsen. The Germans, however, distributed only a small portion of the consignments.

In 1945, Heinrich Himmler's Finnish masseur, Felix Kersten served as liaison between the World Jewish Congress and Himmler. Himmler was willing to alleviate the situation of the Jews to gain the trust of the Allies and make it possible for him to save Germany from total defeat. Himmler met with Norbert Mazor of the World Jewish Congress on April 21, 1945, at Kersten's estate near Berlin. The next day, Himmler met Count Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross and an agreement was made to transfer the remaining 14,000 women in the Ravensbruck camp to Sweden; 2,000 of the women were Jews.


After the war, Sweden took in thousands of survivors and did everything possible to rehabilitate them. To help fund this work, the Jewish community had already levied a tax on its members. Money stemming from the Joint Distribution Committee, the Swedish government, and (later) the Conference on Jewish Material Claims was also addressed to refugee aid. By the late 1950s, about half of the Jewish refugees had become integrated into the Swedish Jewish community. The rest of them emigrated mainly to the United States, Canada, and Israel.

Italy. Aid to Jews

From mid - 1942 until September 1943, many Italian soldiers and diplomats serving in France, Belgium, Greece and Croatia, were outraged by the atrocities committed against the Jews. They influenced the Foreign Ministry and General Staff in Rome to give aid to Jews, regardless of their nationality. As a result a rescue operation was launched: in Dalmatia-Croatia, 5,000 Jews were helped; in southern France, at least 25,000, and in Athens and the Greek islands, at lest 40,000 were given refuge. The Germans brought tremendous pressure to bear on Italy, to have the Jews handed over to them. ... high ranking diplomats refused ...

From the time of the Italian armistice, on September 8, 1943, until the end of war, the Jews were hunted down mercilessly. The great majority of the people, including a substantial part of the clergy, gave aid to Jews and helped them go into hiding, in private homes, in remote villages, and in monasteries. It was thanks to this aid, as well as other options, like crossing into Switzerland or Allied-occupied southern Italy, that the greater part of the Jews of Italy were saved.

‘Pope Pius XII Was Antisemitic’ book, September 7, 1999, By The Associated Press

“NEW YORK (AP) -- The author of a new biography of Pope Pius XII claims the Roman Catholic leader had a deep-rooted antisemitism that contributed to his refusal to openly condemn Hitler's Final Solution during World War II.

John Cornwell, a historian of religious affairs, cites secret Vatican files, depositions and the pope's own files to support his conclusions in “Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII.” The Vatican has consistently defended the conduct of Pius XII, claiming his behind-the-scenes work with wartime belligerents saved thousands of Jews. Cornwell found that in 1942, envoys from Britain and the United States presented the pope with details about Nazi atrocities and asked him to condemn them.

Yet the strongest public denunciation the pope made during the war -- a Christmas Eve radio message in 1942 -- simply mourned the plight of ``hundreds of thousands who without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or gradual extinction.''

Cornwell also states that Pope Pius XII knew 1,000 Jews from Rome were to be deported to the death camps in October 1943 but he did nothing to warn or save them. Only 15 of them survived the war. Last year, the Vatican expressed deep regret for the ‘errors & failures’ of Roman Catholics during the Holocaust but strongly defended the wartime actions of Pius XII. In a 12-page document, the Vatican noted the pope used his first encyclical, in 1939, to warn ``against theories which denied the unity of the human race and against the deification of the State,'' and which could all lead to a real ```hour of darkness.''

Resisters, Rescuers, and Bystanders:

Copyright Fall 1999, November 2003, January 2004 Edith Shaked
Credit/source: Gary M. Grobman, The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers, 1990

1 ibid, p. 183-4


3 A History of the Holocaust, Yehuda Bauer, p. 315

4 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, 62-63