…But Lorenzo was a man; his humanity was pure and uncontaminated, he was outside this world of negation. Thanks to Lorenzo, I managed not to forget that I myself was a man.”
- Primo Levi describes his rescuer, Lorenzo Perrone, from his book If This Is A Man
They were from all walks of life - physicians, peasants, priests and public figures; the highly educated and the illiterate; men and women, neighbors, coworkers, and complete strangers – all humanitarians, most ordinary people confronted with extraordinary circumstances, the moral collapse of society. They responded to the inhuman treatment of their fellow man with courage and compassion, often at great risk to their own life.
It was difficult visiting Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, difficult revisiting the horror behind those war-torn years and the senseless loss of so many men, women and children. Millions stood by and did nothing in the face of such atrocities. If there was any good to come out of the Holocaust, it was in walking the Avenue of The Righteous Among the Nations, in truly understanding first hand those who gave true meaning to a verse from the Hebrew Talmud, “whoever saves a single life saves the entire universe.”
The following Righteous are just a few of the hundreds of featured stories of heroism behind Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous available via their website. Most don't see themselves as heroes; they feel they are ordinary people who simply chose decency and compassion over apathy and hatred.
As time reduces the number of Holocaust survivors, it seems very fitting the Righteous are recognized (a special commission determines those eligible for the honor from nominations submitted by Jews only), for their sake as well as ours.
"And so we must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them."
-- Eli Wiesel, Romanian-born Jewish-American professor and political activist, famous for his Holocaust story of survival, Night