It was a cold, grey March day in 2009 when Martin and I were at the Wannsee Villa near Berlin. We were with the filmmaker Michael King and his crew to film Martin at the villa where the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” had been discussed and finalised, on 20 January 1942.
Michael's film The Rescuers, Heroes of the Holocaust, focuses on the stories of some of the diplomats who rescued Jews, and the descendants of some of those who had been rescued. We were in Wannsee to give context to what befell those who were not rescued.
In Sir Martin's Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust, Sir Martin mapped the numbers of Jews “marked out for death” at Wannsee, and describes it thus: Read More............
Click below to see a clip from the film The Rescuers, of Martin at Wannsee, courtesy of Michael King:
Many of those Jews who survived Nazi rule and occupation in Europe between 1939 and 1945 owed their survival to non-Jews. The penalty for helping a Jew hide was often death, especially in Poland and eastern Europe. Many hundreds of non-Jews were executed for trying to help Jews. Hostile neighbours could be as dangerous as the Gestapo, often betraying both those in hiding and those who were hiding them.
Collaboration and betrayal cast a shadow on the story of rescue, raising the question of how many more Jews might have been saved had more people been prepared to take the risk of helping them; they also intensify the light that shines on those who did help, almost always at great risk to themselves. Henry Huttenbach, the historian of the Jews of Worms, writes of an elderly Jewish couple in Worms who were made welcome in a Catholic convent and thus escaped deportation: 'They had the good fortune of encountering brave and decent people who sheltered them in an otherwise overwhelmingly unfriendly and disinterested Europe. It must be remembered that those who did escape camps ran away into societies poisoned by anti-Semitic sentiments. The vast majority perished at the hands of collaborators with Germany's scheme to exterminate the Jews, whether Swiss border guards refusing entrance to anyone over sixteen, or the French police arresting foreign Jews, or Poles refusing to hide escapees from ghettoes, or Russian partisans who killed Jews seeking to join them in their fight against the Germans.' But, he added:
Pope Pius XII gives a radio broadcast from the Vatican in 1947 (AP)
"For years Pius XII has been smeared. The BBC retraction shows the tide is turning; Major historians such as Sir Martin Gilbert have demolished the myths first perpetrated by the Soviet Union" by William Doino, Jr, posted 14 December 2016:
When I read the BBC’s correction, I could not but help think of the impressive scholarship of men like Chadwick and Gilbert, who did so much to exonerate Pius XII, and whom I had the privilege of consulting before their respective deaths. Both of them, I am sure, would have welcomed the BBC’s about-face, especially Gilbert, whose book,The Righteous, is a comprehensive study of Christians, including Pius XII, who rescued Jews during World War II – often at great risk to themselves.
In 2003, the year Gilbert’s book was published, he granted me an extensive interview in which he methodically demolished the charges against Pius XII, emphasizing two things: Read More................
To listen to Sir Martin on Pope Pius XII during the Second World War