Seven of our survivors were helped by Christians during the war, some more than once. This help involved giving shelter for several hours or several months. One of our survivors was sheltered by a Christian woman for over two years, and her mother and two siblings were also rescued by Christians. Another of our survivors was rescued by the Swedish “diplomat” Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest. Christian help sometimes came in the form of a piece of bread or a word of encouragement. The penalty for hiding Jews was severe. Torture and a horrible death awaited a rescuer in Central and Eastern Europe. In Western Europe the penalty was incarceration in a concentration camp from which one returned a broken person if at all.
Christian helpers defied not only the Nazi terror but their own culture which had defined the Jews as “alien” and pushed them beyond the boundaries of obligation long before Hitler. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, recognizes Christian helpers as “Righteous Gentiles” only if they were guided by altruism and did not seek payment. Sociologist and historian Nechama Tec described the Righteous Christians as “the light that pierced the darkness.” We emphasize them not because there were so many but because there were so few, and we ask the question that has no answer: what would we have done to help others when the risk was so great?