In the Netherlands our translator put up an announcement in the Amsterdam Jewish Weekly asking survivors to supply the names of their rescuers still living in the Netherlands. This single ad produced over thirty-five people, most of whom were unknown by Yad Vashem. We went to Czechoslovakia to visit a friend, and there we met Antonin Kalina, a Prague Communist who saved 1300 children in Buchenwald.
While the rescuers answered our questions generously, they also raised other, perhaps unanswerable questions. How and why they had the strength to act righteously in a time of savagery is a mystery, perhaps a miracle. Many came from loving families but not all. Some were illiterate, some were educated. They weren’t all religious, they weren’t all brave. What they did share, however, was compassion, empathy, an intolerance of injustice, and an ability to endure risk beyond what one wants to imagine.
Holding the Jewish baby and future filmmaker Pierre Sauvage in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, 1944.