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All Our Brothers and Sisters

Jews Saving Jews during the Holocaust

Edited By Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz and Alan Schneider

The book focuses on the heroism of Jews throughout Europe who risked their lives to save their coreligionists under Nazi rule. The contributors discuss and analyze the actions of Jews who rescued other Jews from the hands of the Nazis. These actions took place, to different degrees, in Germany, in Axis states and all across Nazi-occupied Europe, from the early stages of persecution until the war’s end, in the framework of collaborative efforts and individual initiatives. The Jews who rescued other Jews during the Holocaust came like their non-Jewish counterparts from different backgrounds: men and women, old and young, religious and secular, wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated. The rescue missions took place in ghettos, areas without ghettos, jails, camps, hospitals, children’s homes, schools, monasteries, in hiding. This book focuses on these rescue missions and the people behind them, reminding us of their courage and willingness to act, even when it put their own lives in danger.

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“Even if We’ll Lose” – Jews Saving Jews in the Netherlands

Extract

By: Ben Braber

In November 1942 Joachim Simon sent a letter to a friend in a concentration camp. He wrote:

When I think about you, being incarcerated, I’m grateful that I can be active. I still have the opportunity to try – and that’s most important for us. It’s still possible to fight against fate – even if we’ll lose […] I’ll not regret for one moment what I’ve done. We had the courage to fight and if we failed, that’s our fate. And the thought that we haven’t only fought for ourselves gives us courage […]1

Simon was a Palestine Pioneer, a young Zionist who had been preparing for aliyah when the German armies overran the Netherlands in 1940. The fight mentioned in his letter consisted of rescuing other Pioneers from deportation and helping them to hide or flee to safety. It was one way in which Jews saved Jews in the Netherlands.

The letter highlights a characteristic of this work. It was courageous but desperate. The despair was born from the Jewish impotence to halt the deportation of the majority of the Jewish population from the Netherlands. Jewish individuals and groups were only able to help a relatively small number of people, often not even themselves or close relatives. This lack of power was mostly a result of a combination of forces: the overwhelming military might of the German forces in the Netherlands, the prevailing readiness of the leaders of the Dutch civil...

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