Annemeet Hasidi-van Der Leij
Yad Vashem - יָד וַשֵׁם:
Updated: Feb 2
"For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs (those who cannot have children)who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial (יד=Yad) and a name (שם=Shem) better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.” Isaiah 56: 4, 5. Naming the Holocaust memorial ‘Yad Vashem’ conveys the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death.
~History and architecture of the museum: The idea of establishing a memorial in the historical Jewish homeland for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust was conceived during World War II, as a response to reports of the mass murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries. Yad Vashem was first proposed in September 1942, at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund, by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek. In August 1945, the plan was discussed in greater detail at a Zionist meeting in London. In February 1946, Yad Vashem opened an office in Jerusalem and a branch office in Tel Aviv and in June that year, convened its first plenary session. In July 1947, the First Conference on Holocaust Research was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However, the outbreak in May 1948 of the War of Independence, brought operations to a standstill for two years. In 1953, the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, unanimously passed the Yad Vashem Law,* establishing the Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Yad Vashem opened to the public in 1957. The exhibits focused on Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, the uprisings in Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, and the struggle of survivors to reach Israel. The location of Yad Vashem on the western side of Mount Herzl, an area devoid of weighty historical associations, was chosen to convey a symbolic message of ‘rebirth’ after destruction. At the end of the long corridor of the new museum is a balcony with the view over ‘Mevaseret Zion.’ This symbolises the The ‘approach to Jerusalem.’ The new Yad Vashem museum was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, replacing the previous 30-year old exhibition. The new building, consists of a long corridor connected to 10 exhibition halls, each dedicated to a different chapter of the Holocaust. The museum is shaped like a triangular concrete ‘prism’ that cuts through the landscape, illuminated by a 200-meter long skylight. Visitors follow a preset route that takes them through underground galleries that branch off from the main hall. Visitors are guided into the galleries by a series of impassable gaps that of the Holocaust are highlighted. The museum combines the personal stories of 90 Holocaust victims and survivors and presents approximately 2500 personal items including artwork and letters donated by survivors and others. The old historical displays revolving around anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism have been replaced by exhibits that focus on the personal stories of Jews killed in the Holocaust. According to Avner Shalev, the museum's curator and chairman, a visit to the new museum revolves around “looking into the eyes of the individuals. There weren't six million victims, there were six million individual murders." The new museum was dedicated on 15 March 2005 in the presence of leaders from 40 states and former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan.
~The Hall of Names:
The Hall of Names is a memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The main hall is composed of two cones: one ten meters high, with a reciprocal well-like cone excavated into the underground rock, its base filled with water. On the upper cone is a display featuring 600 photographs of Holocaust victims and fragments of Pages of Testimony. These are reflected in the water at the bottom of the lower cone, commemorating those victims whose names remain unknown. Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing the approximately 4.2 million names, so far collected, with empty spaces for those names yet to be submitted. Since the 1950s, Yad Vashem has collected approximately 110.000 audio, video and written testimonies by Holocaust survivors. As the survivors age, the program has expanded to visiting survivors in their homes to tape interviews. Adjoining the hall is a study area with a computerized data bank where visitors can do online searches for the names of Holocaust victims. ~Art Gallery: Yad Vashem houses the world's largest collection of artwork produced by Jews and other victims of Nazi occupation in 1933-1945. Yehudit Shendar, the senior art curator of Yad Vashem, supervises a 10.000-piece collection, adding 300 pieces a year, most of them donated by survivors' families or discovered in attics. Included in the collection are works by: Alice Lok Cahana, Samuel Bak, Felix Nussbaum. Above a painting named; ‘The Family,’ by Samuel Bak.
~Synagoge: The Synagogue at Yad Vashem Showcases Judaica from Destroyed Synagogues in Europe. Thirty-one distinct items are on display, including four Torah Arks, and various other Judaicia from throughout Europe. The four arks, all of which come from Romania, were brought to Yad Vashem with the support of the late Prof. Nicolae Cajal, then president of the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania and with the backing of the Romanian government. In 1998, Yehudit Inbar, Director of the Museums Division and Haviva Peled Carmeli, Senior Artifacts Curator, traveled throughout Romania to trace what was left of a once thriving Jewish community. Among the items discovered was an Ark that was found in a local Romanian’s home who was using it as a clothes closet, the Torah Ark of the Apple Merchants Association Synagogue in Iasi, and the unraveling Torah Ark Curtain from Cluj. The main, functioning Torah Ark’s façade is from Barlad, Romania. In addition, there are ritual articles from Poland, Greece, Transnistria, Germany and Slovakia. “The Yad Vashem synagogue will serve as a memorial to the destroyed places of worship of European Jewry. It will be a testimonial to the indestructible faith, the rich spiritual world of European Jewry and the extraordinary will of the Jewish people to survive, to remember and to rebuild,” said Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. ~The Hall of Remembrance - אוהל יזכור: The principle memorial at Yad Vashem is the Hall of Remembrance (Ohel Yizkor). The severe concrete-walled structure with a low tent-like roof stands empty, save for an eternal flame. Engraved in the black basalt floor are the names of 21 Nazi extermination camps, concentration camps and killing sites in central and eastern Europe. A crypt in front of the memorial(eternal) flame contains ashes of victims. The approach to the Hall of Remembrance is lined with trees planted in honor of non-Jewish men and women – ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ - who, at the risk of their own lives, attempted to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.
~The Valley of the Communities - בקעת הקהילות: The Valley of the Communities in Yad Vashem is 10 dunam monument literally dug out of natural bedrock. Over 5000 names of communities are engraved on the stone walls in the Valley of the Communities. Each name recalls a Jewish community which existed for hundreds of years; for the inhabitants, each community constituted an entire world. Today, in most cases, nothing remains but the name. The Valley was excavated out of the earth- nothing was built above ground. It is as if what had been built up on the surface of the earth over the course of a millennium- a thousand years of Jewish communal life- was suddenly swallowed up. The names of the communities are engraved on the 107 walls which roughly corresponds to the geographic arrangement of the map of Europe and North Africa.
At the entrance to the Valley is the inscription: "This memorial commemorates the Jewish communities destroyed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and the few which suffered but survived in the shadow of the Holocaust. For more than one thousand years, Jews lived in Europe, organizing communities to preserve their distinct identity. In periods of relative tranquility, Jewish culture flourished, but in periods of unrest, Jews were forced to flee. Wherever they settled, they endowed the people amongst whom they lived with their talents. Here their stories will be told.." ~The Memorial to the Deportees - הזיכרון למגורשים: The Memorial to the Deportees was established at Yad Vashem as a monument to the millions of Jews herded onto cattle-cars and transported from all over Europe to the extermination camps. An original cattle-car, appropriated by the German Railway authorities and given to Yad Vashem by the Polish authorities, stands at the center of the memorial site. Although symbolizing the journey towards annihilation and oblivion, facing as it does the hills of Jerusalem, the memorial also conveys the hope and the gift of life of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, eternal capital of the Jewish people. The trees around the memorial were planted after a holocaust survivor, living in the Jerusalem neighbourhood facing the memorial, complained she saw the cattle – car from her kitchen window every morning. She could not bear this, so trees were planted to obscure the sight.
~The Children’s Memorial - הזיכרון של הילדים: In my opinion this is the most heartbreaking memorial in Yad Vashem. Approximately 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust. They are specially remembered in the nearby Children’s Memorial, an underground cavern in which the flickering flames of memorial candles are reflected in an infinity of tiny lights within the prevailing darkness. Outside the entrance to the cavern a memorial of stones is placed. When you exit the Children’s memorial, another memorial is waiting. This is a statue of Janusz Korczak and the children of his orphanage. According to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum full statistics for the tragic fate of children who died during the Holocaust will never be known. Some estimates range as high as 1.5 million murdered children. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Romani children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children who were murdered under Nazi rule in Germany and occupied Europe.
~Nathan Rapoport - נתן רפופורט: Nathan Rapoport (1911-1987), was a Jewish sculptor who was born in Warsaw, Poland. In 1936, he won a scholarship to study in France and Italy. He fled to the Soviet Union when the Nazis invaded Poland. The Soviets initially provided him with a studio, but later compelled him to work as a manual laborer. After the end of the war, he returned to Poland to study at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. In 1950, Rapoport immigrated to the United States, where he lived in New York until his death in 1987.
His sculptures in public places include:
-Monument to Mordechai Anielewicz at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.
-The Last March, bronze sculpture in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
-The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, bronze sculpture in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
Righteous Among the Nations - חסידי אומות העולם: Righteous Among the Nations, in Hebrew, חסידי אומות העולם, is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. The term originates with the concept of ‘righteous gentiles,’ a term used in rabbinical Judaism to refer to non-Jews, who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah: 1. The prohibition of idolatry. 2.The prohibition of murder. 3.The prohibition of theft. 4.The prohibition of sexual immorality. 5.The prohibition of blasphemy. 6.The prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. 7.The requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.
To be recognized as ‘Righteous,’ a person has to fulfill several criteria:
1.Only a Jewish party can put a nomination forward; 2.Helping a family member or Jew convert to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition; 3.Assistance has to be repeated and/or substantial; and 4.Assistance has to be given without any financial gain expected in return (although covering normal expenses such as rent or food is acceptable). 5.The person cannot have the blood of innocents on his hands. A person who is recognized as ‘Righteous among the Nations’ for having taken risks to help Jews during the Holocaust is awarded a medal in his/her name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of having the name added to those on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem (the last is instead of a tree planting, which was discontinued for lack of space). The awards are distributed to the rescuers or their next-of-kin during ceremonies in Israel, or in their countries of residence through the offices of Israel's diplomatic representatives. These ceremonies are attended by local government representatives and are given wide media coverage. At least 130 ‘Righteous Gentiles’ have settled in Israel. They were welcomed by Israeli authorities, and were granted citizenship. In the mid-1980s, they became entitled to special pensions. Some of them settled in British Mandatory Palestine before Israel's establishment shortly after World War II, or in the early years of the new state of Israel, while others came later. Those who came earlier often spoke fluent Hebrew and have now integrated into Israeli society. Below a graph with the names and numbers of Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin, as of January 1, 2014:
Albania - 69
Italy - 610
Armenia - 24
Japan - 1
Austria - 95
Latvia - 134
Belarus - 601
Lithuania - 871
Belgium - 1.665
Luxembourg - 1
Bosnia - 42
Macedonia - 10
Brazil - 2
Moldova - 79
Bulgaria - 20
Montenegro - 1
Chile - 1
China - 2
Norway - 52
Croatia - 109
Poland - 6.454
Cuba - 1
Portugal - 2
Czech Republic - 114
Romania - 60
Russia - 189
Ecuador - 1
Serbia - 131
Egypt - 1
Slovakia - 539
El Salvador - 1
Slovenia - 7
Estonia - 3
Spain - 6
France - 3.760
Sweden - 10
Georgia - 1
Switzerland - 45
Germany - 553
Turkey - 1
Great Britain (Incl. Scotland) - 21
Ukraine - 2.472
Greece - 321
USA - 4
Hungary - 810
Vietnam - 1
Ireland - 1 Total: 25.271 * The Danish Underground requested that all its members who participated in the rescue of the Jewish community not be listed individually, but commemorated as one group.
** Includes two persons originally from Indonesia, but residing in the Netherlands. Below I will name and describe some of the famous ‘Righteous Among the Nations'. 1.Janusz Korczak(1878 - 1942):
Janusz Korczak was born Henryk Goldsmit in Warsaw on July 22, 1878. During his youth, he played with children who were poor and lived in bad neighborhoods; his passion for helping disadvantaged youth continued into his adulthood. He studied medicine and also had a promising career in literature. When he gave up his career in literature and medicine, he changed his name to Janusz Korczak, a pseudonym derived from a 19th century novel, Janasz Korczak and the pretty Swordsweeperlady. In 1912, Korczak established a Jewish orphanage, 'Dom Sierot,' in a building which he designed to advance his progressive educational theories. He envisioned a world in which children structured their own world and became experts in their own matters. Jewish children between the ages of seven and fourteen were allowed to live there while attending Polish public school and government-sponsored Jewish schools. The orphanage opened a summer camp in 1921, which remained in operation until the summer of 1940. Besides serving as principal of Don Sierot and another orphanage, 'Nasz Dom,' Korczak was also a doctor and author, worked at a Polish radio station, was a principal of an experimental school, published a children’s newspaper and was a docent at a Polish university. Korczak also served as an expert witness in a district court for minors. He became well-known in Polish society and received many awards. The rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930's restricted only his activities with Jews. In 1934 and 1936, Korczak visited Palestine and was influenced by the kibbutz movement. Following his trips, Korczak was convinced that all Jews should move to Palestine. The Germans occupied Poland in September 1939, and the Warsaw ghetto was established in November 1940. The orphanage was moved inside the ghetto. Korczak received many offers to be smuggled out of the ghetto, but he refused because he did not want to abandon the children. On August 5, 1942, Korczak joined nearly 200 children and orphanage staff members, some of them not Jewish, were rounded up for deportation to Treblinka, where they were all put to death. 2.Emilie Schindler(1907 - 2001): Emilie Schindler's husband Oscar Schindler became a household name as one of the great humanitarians of the century, saving 1300 Jews from certain death in the Nazi death camps during World War II. While Oscar Schindler's efforts to save hundreds of Jews are well known thanks to Keneally's book and the movie Schindler's List, the silver-screen version left Emilie on the sidelines. Now a new German-language book 'Ich, Emilie Schindler' by the Argentinian author Erika Rosenberg tries to show that Emilie was just as involved in shielding Jews from the Nazis. The biography highlights Emilie Schindler's bravery during the Holocaust and portrays her not only as a strong woman working alongside her husband but as a heroine in her own right.
Emilie Pelzl was born on October 22, 1907, in the city of Alt Moletein, a village in the German-populated border region of what was then The Republic of Czechoslovakia. Emilie later recalled the local pastor, an old family friend, who instructed young Emilie to end her friendship with a young Jew, Rita Reif. Emilie defied the pastor and retained her friendship with Rita, until Rita was murdered by the Nazis in front of her father's store in 1942.
Emilie Pelzl first saw the tall, handsome and outgoing Oscar Schindler when he came to the door of her father's farmhouse in Alt Moletein. It was 1928 and Oscar was selling electric motors. After a courtship of six weeks, they were married on March 6, 1928. Emilie's father had given Oscar a dowry of 100.000 Czech crowns, a considerable sum in those days, and he soon bought a luxury car and squandered the rest on outings. In her 'A Memoir Where Light And Shadow Meet,' Emilie recalls how she struggled trying to understand him:
"In spite of his flaws, Oscar had a big heart and was always ready to help whoever was in need. He was affable, kind, extremely generous and charitable, but at the same time, not mature at all. He constantly lied and deceived me, and later returned feeling sorry, like a boy caught in mischief, asking to be forgiven one more time - and then we would start all over again.”
In the thirties, now without employment, Oscar Schindler joined the Nazi party, as did many others at that time. He had seen the possibilities which the war brought in its wake, and he followed on the heels of the SS when the Germans invaded Poland.
Oscar moved to Crakow on his own, where he took over a Jewish family`s apartment. Bribes in the shape of money and illegal black market goods flowed copiously from Schindler and gave him control of a Jewish-owned enameled-goods factory,’ Deutsch Emailwaren Fabrik,’ close to the Jewish ghetto. Schindler principally employed Jewish workers. At this time, they were the cheapest labour.
But slowly as the brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror, the seeds of their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Schindler in all its horror - he came to see the Jews not only as cheap labour, but also as mothers, fathers, and children, exposed to ruthless slaughter.
Schindler promised the Jews who worked for him that they would never starve, that he would protect them as best he could. And he did, building his own workers barracks on the factory grounds to help alleviate the sufferings of life in the nearby Plaszow labor camp. He gave safe haven to as many Jewish workers as possible, insisting to the occupying Nazis that they were ‘essential workers,’ a status that kept them away from harassment and killings.
At Schindler`s factory, nobody was hit, nobody murdered, nobody sent to death camps. But conditions at the factory were far from comfortable. Freezing, lice-ridden inmates still suffered typhus and dysentery.
Until the liberation of spring, 1945, the Schindler's used all means at their disposal to ensure the safety of the Schindler-Jews. They spent every pfennig they had, and Emilie's jewels were sold, to buy food, clothes, and medicine. They set up a secret sanatorium in the factory with medical equipment purchased on the black market. Here Emilie looked after the sick. Those who did not survive were given a fitting Jewish burial in a hidden graveyard - established and paid for by the Schindlers.
Later accounts have revealed that the Schindlers spent something like 4 million German marks keeping their Jews out of the death camps - an enormous sum of money for those times.
The factory continued to produce shells for the German Wehrmacht for 7 months. In all that time not one usable shell was produced; none passed the military quality tests.
One night in the last weeks of the war, Emilie, acting alone while Oscar was in Crakow, was confronted by Nazis transporting 250 Jews in four wagons from Golechau to a death camp. She succeeded in persuading the Gestapo to send these Jews to the factory camp "with regard to the continuing war industry production." In her A Memoir she recalls:
"We found the railroad car bolts frozen solid .. the spectacle I saw was a nightmare almost beyond imagination. It was impossible to distinguish the men from the women: they were all so emaciated - weighing under seventy pounds most of them, they looked like skeletons. Their eyes were shining like glowing coals in the dark ..”
Of the 250 in the wagons, thirteen were dead. Throughout that night and for many nights following, Emilie worked tirelessly to rehabilitate these Jews. One large room in the factory was emptied for the purpose. Three more men died, but with care, the others gradually rallied.
Today, surviving Schindler-Jews remember how Emilie worked indefatigably to secure food and somehow managed to provide the sick with extra nourishment and apples. A Jewish boy, Lew Feigenbaum, broke his eyeglasses and stopped Emilie in the factory and told her: "I broke my glasses and can't see .." When the Schindler-Jews were transferred to Brunnlitz, Emilie arranged for a prescription for the eyeglasses to be picked up in Crakow and delivered to her in Brunnlitz.
Feiwel (today Franciso) Wichter, 75, was No. 371 on Schindler's List, the only one of the Schindler Jews living in Argentina:
“As long as I live, I will always have a sincere and eternal gratitude for dear Emilie. I think she triumphed over danger because of her courage, intelligence and determination to do the right and humane thing. She had immense energy and she was like a mother. “
Another survivor, Maurice Markheim, No.142 on the list, later recalled:
“She got a whole truck of bread from somewhere on the black market. They called me to unload it. She was talking to the SS and because of the way she turned around and talked, I could slip a loaf under my shirt. I saw she did this on purpose. A loaf of bread at that point was gold .. There is an old expression: Behind the man, there is the woman, and I believe she was the great human being.”
In May, 1945, it was all over. The Russians moved into Brunnlitz. The previous evening, Schindler gathered everyone together in the factory, where he and Emilie took a deeply emotional leave of them. The Schindlers - and the 1300 Schindler-Jews - had survived.
Oscar Schindler`s life after the war was a long series of failures. He tried without success to be a film producer and was deprived of his nationality immediately after the war. Threats from former Nazis meant that he felt insecure in post-war Germany, and he applied for an entry permit to the United States. He was refused as he had been a member of the Nazi party.
After this he fled to Buenos Aires in Argentina with Emilie, his mistress, and a dozen Schindler Jews. The Schindlers settled down in 1949 as farmers, first raising chickens and then nutrias. They were supported financially by the Jewish organization, Joint, and other thankful Jews. But Oscar Schindler met with no success, and in 1957 he became bankrupt and travelled back alone to Germany, where he remained estranged from his wife for 17 years before he died in poverty in 1974, at the age of 66. He never saw Emilie again.
Emilie stayed in Argentina, where she scraped by on a small pension from Israel and a $650 a month pension from Germany. Her only relative, a niece, lived in Bavaria, Germany.
In May, 1994, Emilie Schindler received The Righteous Amongst the Nations Award. In 1995, Argentina decorated her with the Order of May, the highest honor given to foreigners who are not heads of state. In 1998, the Argentine government decided to give her a pension of $1000 a month until her financial situation improved. She was named an Illustrious Citizen by Argentina.
In July, 2001, during a visit to Berlin, Germany, a frail Emilie handed over documents related to her husband to a museum. Emilie Schindler died Friday night October 5, 2001, in a Berlin hospital.
Emilie was bitter and disillusioned: “He gave his Jews everything - and me, nothing.” But she was capable of expressing both her love and bitterness towards him in one sentence, calling him a drunk and womanisor, but also saying: “If he'd stayed, I'd have looked after him.”
In A Memoir Emilie tells about her inner thoughts, when she visited his tomb, over thirty-seven years after he left:
"At last we meet again .. I have received no answer, my dear, I do not know why you abandoned me .. But what not even your death or my old age can change is that we are still married, this is how we are before God. I have forgiven you everything, everything .. "
3.Oskar Schindler(1908 - 1974):
An ethnic German, Schindler was born April 28, 1908, in Zwittau, Austria-Hungary, what is now Moravia in the Czech Republic. Schindler grew up with all the privileges money could buy. He was born Catholic.
Never one to miss a chance to make money, he marched into Poland on the heels of the SS. He dived headfirst into the black-market and the underworld and soon made friends with the local Gestapo bigwigs, softening them up with women, money and illicit booze. His newfound connections helped him acquire a factory which he ran with the cheapest labor around: Jewish. At first he seemed like every other usurping German industrialist, driven by profit and unmoved by the means of his profiteering. But somewhere along the line, something changed.
In December 1939, as occupied Poland was being torn apart by the savagery of the Holocaust, Schindler took his first faltering steps from the darkness of Nazism towards the light of heroism. "If you saw a dog going to be crushed under a car,” he said later of his wartime actions, “wouldn't you help him?”
Before the outbreak of war, Poland had been a relative haven for European Jews - Krakow's Jewish population numbered over 50.000. But when Germany invaded, destruction began immediately and it was merciless. Jews were herded into crowded ghettos, randomly beaten and humiliated, capriciously killed. Jewish property and businesses were summarily destroyed, or appropriated by the SS and 'sold' to Nazi 'investors', one of whom was the fast talking, womanizing, money hungry Schindler.
Not long after acquiring his ‘Emalia’ factory - which produced enamel goods and munitions to supply the German front - the removal of Jews to death camps began in earnest. Schindler's Jewish accountant put him in touch with the few Jews with any remaining wealth. They invested in his factory, and in return they would be able to work there and perhaps be spared. He was persuaded to hire more Jewish workers, designating their skills as ‘essential,’ paying off the Nazis so they would allow them to stay in Krakow. Schindler was making money, but everyone in his factory was fed, no-one was beaten, no-one was killed. It became an oasis of humanity in a desert of moral torpor. As the brutality of the Holocaust escalated, Schindler's protection of his Jewish workers became increasingly active. In the summer of 1942, he witnessed a German raid on the Jewish ghetto. Watching innocent people being packed onto trains bound for certain death, something awakened in him.
“Beyond this day, no thinking person could fail to see what would happen,” he said later. “I was now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system.”
By the autumn of 1944, Germany's hold on Poland had weakened. As the Russian army approached, the Nazi's tried desperately to complete their program of liquidation and sent all remaining Jews to die. But Schindler remained true to the “Schindlerjuden,” the workers he referred to as “my children.” After the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto and the transfer of many Jews to the Plaszow concentration camp, Schindler used his influence to set up a branch of the camp for 900 Jewish workers in his factory compound in Zablocie and made his now famous list of the workers he would need for its operation. The factory operated in its new location a year, making defective bullets for German guns. Conditions were grim, for the Schindlers as well as the workers. But Schindler saved most of these workers when he transferred his factory to Brunnlitz (Sudetenland) in October 1944. 4.Raoul Wallenberg(1912- ?): Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Hungary who led an extensive and successful mission to save the lives of nearly 100.000 Hungarian Jews. Though his efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust is one of the most treasured aspects of that time, his fate and ultimate death is unknown still to this day. Raoul Wallenberg was born August 4, 1912, three months after his father's death.
Raoul belonged to one of the most famous families in Sweden, the large Wallenberg family. It was a family that contributed to Sweden bankers, diplomats and politicians during several generations in the country. Raoul's father, Raoul Oscar Wallenberg, was an officer in the navy, and his cousins Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg were two of Sweden's most famous bankers and industrialists.
In 1935, he received his bachelor degree of Science in Architecture. But the market for architects was small in Sweden, so his grandfather sent him to Cape Town, South Africa, where he practiced at a Swedish firm selling building materials. After six months, his grandfather arranged a
new job for him at a Dutch bank office in Haifa, Palestine.
Wallenberg, first to the right with some friends in Israel in 1936
It was in Palestine he first met Jews that had escaped Hitler's Germany. Their stories of the Nazi persecutions affected him deeply. Perhaps because he had a very humane attitude to life and because he owned a drop of Jewish blood (Raoul's grandmother's grandfather was a Jew by the name of Benedicks whom arrived to Sweden by the end of the 18th century). Wallenberg returned to Sweden from Haifa in 1936 and resumed his old interest for business.Within eight months, Wallenberg was a joint owner and international director of the Mid-European Trading Company. Through his trips in Nazi-occupied France and in Germany itself, Raoul quickly learned how the German bureaucracy functioned. He also made several trips to Hungary and Budapest. At that time, Hungary was still a relatively safe place in a hostile surrounding.
During the spring of 1944 the world had mostly awoken to realize what Hitler's "final solution to the Jewish problem" actually meant. In May 1944, the first authentic eye witness report of what was happening in the Auschwitz extermination camp finally reached the western world . It came from two Jews who had managed to escape the gas chambers and Nazi Germany all together.
Hitler's plans for the extermination of European Jewry were now known. At the beginning of 1944, there still lived an estimated 700.000 Jews in Hungary, a country which had joined Germany in the war against the Soviet Union already in 1941.
When the Germans lost the battle of Stalingrad in 1943, Hungary wanted to follow Italy's example and demand a separate peace. Hitler called the Hungarian head of state, Miklós Horthy, and demanded that he display continued solidarity with Germany. When Horthy refused to meet these demands, an angered Hitler had the German army invade Hungary in March 1944. Following soon thereafter, the deportations of Hungarian Jews to the concentration camps began. For the vast majority of these Jews, the lone destination was Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland - a ride that brought with it certain death. Though the Germans began by deporting Jews from the Hungarian country side, the Jewish citizens of Budapest knew that their hour of fate was also soon to come. In desperation they sought help from embassies of the neutral countries where provisional identity passes were issued for Jews with special connections to these countries.
The Swedish legation in Budapest succeeded in negotiating with the Germans that the bearers of these protective passes would be treated as Swedish citizens and exempt from wearing the yellow Star of David on their chest.
It was Per Anger (photo above), a young diplomat at the legation in Budapest, who initiated the first of these Swedish protective passes. (In 1982, Per Anger was awarded the honor of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem for his heroic actions to save Jews during the war.)
In a short period of time the Swedish legation issued 700 passes, though this represented a mere drop in the ocean compared to the enormous number of Jews being threatened by Hitler. To deal with the great number of Jews looking for help, the legation requested immediate staff reinforcements from the foreign department in Stockholm.
In 1944, the United States established The War Refugee Board (WRB), an organization created with the mission of saving Jews from Nazi persecution.
(photo above; Budapest, Autumn 1944. Wallenberg to the right with Hungarian collegues).
The WRB soon realized that serious attempts were being made from the Swedish side to rescue the Jewish population in Hungary. The WRB's representative in Stockholm called a committee with prominent Swedish Jews to discuss suitable persons to lead a mission in Budapest for an extensive rescue operation. Among the participants was Raoul Wallenberg's business partner Koloman Lauer, chosen as an expert on Hungary.The committee's first choice was Folke Bernadotte, chairman of the Swedish Red Cross and a relative of the Swedish king. After Bernadotte was disapproved by the Hungarian government, Koloman Lauer suggested that his business partner - Raoul Wallenberg - be asked to lead the mission, emphasizing Wallenberg's familiarity with Hungary from the many trips he had made there while working for their joint company. Raoul was considered too young and inexperienced, but Lauer was persistent in his belief that Wallenberg was the right man — a quick thinker, energetic, brave and compassionate. And he had a famous name.
Soon the committee approved Wallenberg and by the end of June 1944, he was appointed first secretary at the Swedish legation in Budapest with the mission to start a rescue operation for the Jews.
Raoul wrote a memo to the Swedish foreign department. He was determined not to get caught in the protocol and paperwork bureaucracy of diplomacy. He demanded full authorization to deal with whom he wanted without having to contact the ambassador first. He also wanted to have the right to send diplomatic couriers beyond the usual channels. The memo was so unusual that it was sent all the way to Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, who consulted the king before he announced that the demands had been approved.
By the time Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July 1944, the Germans, under the leadership of SS officer Adolf Eichmann, had already deported more than 400.000 Jewish men, women and children from Hungary. They had been deported on 148 freight trains between May 14 and July 8. Only about 230.000 Jews, out of a population that once numbered close to three-quarters of a million, were now left.
That same July, Eichmann was preparing a plan that in one day would exterminate the enitre Jewish population in Budapest, the only Hungarian region remaining with large pockets of Jews intact. In a report to Berlin, though, he wrote that "the technical details will take a few days." If this plan had been but into action, Raoul Wallenberg's mission would have been completely meaningless as the "Jewish issue" would have b