Monday, August 19, 2013

The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

Famed historian Martin Gilbert sets out to document gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust in World War II in The Righteous.

Gilbert realizes this book is fraught with difficulties. By documenting the deeds of the brave few, we may forget that most of the world was indifferent, or in many cases, actively lent a hand in the extermination of Europe's Jews.

Yet Gilbert is compelled to tell the story of these non-Jewish rescuers. Correctly, I believe, Gilbert does not want acts of decency to become the unusual impulse when we examine the Holocaust. For then, behind our own backs, we excuse the butchery of the murders, considering their deeds to be "normal."

Gilbert does sacrifice detail for breadth in this work. He often spends just a paragraph or two on a particular rescue. This gives the book a flat feel, as if he is reading off a list. Only in very few instances does he get involved in the background of the rescuer and the rescued, giving the book a fuller feel.

Despite this, the book is an excellent survey on those who were brave enough to risk life to save fellow human beings during a time when most everyone else turned away.

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