Monday, September 7, 2009

Saving Lives

The Holocaust has been on my mind lately.
I wrote about the wonderful book "The Book Thief" on August 20th. Part of that story includes a family hiding a young Jewish man in their basement for two years in Nazi Germany. I read another book several months ago called "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay. It is partially told in present day as an American journalist living in Paris researches the little known round-up of Parisian Jews by French authorities in 1942. Thirteen thousand Jews were sent to death in Auchswitz from that incident. The story alternates with that of 10 year-old Sarah in 1942. I would recommend this book as well.

Then yesterday's paper had the story of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Jewish children 70 years ago by putting them on trains and sending them safely to foster homes on a hunch that Czechoslovakia would soon be invaded by the Nazis. He, of course, was correct.

Last week those children reunited with Winton, now 100 years old, in a London railway station to say thank you. It is estimated that 5000 people around the world owe Winton their lives - those children and their descendents. The kicker is that he never told anyone what he had done. Not even his wife for 40 years. She only found out in 1988 when she found correspondence referring to the prewar events.

This all reminded me of a favorite book I read as a young teen. It was called
"The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom.
Published in 1971 ten Boom recounted her Dutch family and the strong Christian faith that led them to help and hide as many Jewish families as they could. Someone asked Corrie to help hide his wife and when she agreed the entire family was arrested. (The hidden Jews remained safe). She and her sister Betsie ended up in Ravensbruck, a brutal workhouse for women. Corrie recounts her sister's unflagging faith and the risks she took sharing a secret Bible with the other prisoners. At one point Betsie thanks God even for the fleas and Corrie thinks her faith has gone too far. But later they discover that it was the fleas that kept the guards away and gave them the opportunity to share their Bible and their hope with the other women. Betsie died in the concentration camp, but Corrie lived on to tell their story.

This book made a big impact on me as a teenager, and now I find that many Holocaust stories continue to touch me. Many survivors of that time are in their 80's now. I think we should continue to listen and learn and be inspired by a time that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

My church book group (to which I rarely go) is reading Sarah's Key for October. Maybe I should consider it.

John Ettorre said...

Interesting, Diane. Can you post a link to that Winton story? I'd love to read that. Haven't ever come across that name.

Susan's Snippets said...


Absolutely, we need to listen and LEARN from those who went thru such unimaginable hardships - surviving.

and thriving

Amy said...

I've never heard of Nicholas Winton. I'm going to look him up on the Internet now. And, I think I've already recommended this one to you, but for when you're ready for another WWII novel, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel was wonderful. Beautifully written as well.