27 January 2013 —

During the Second World War, millions of people who did not conform to Adolf Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection – Jews, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, communists, the mentally ill and others – were systematically persecuted, rounded up and transported to death camps. Some were murdered immediately; others cruelly worked to death. Every year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau we observe the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust so as never to forget these crimes.

This year’s theme – “Rescue During the Holocaust: the Courage to Care” – pays tribute to those who risked their lives and their families to save Jews and others from almost certain death under Nazi rule. The stories of the rescuers vary. Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others led families to safety or helped them to obtain the necessary documents to escape. Yet each shares a common thread: courage, compassion and moral leadership.

A number of these accounts have achieved iconic prominence – such as the story of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest. But the stories of many of the rescuers are known only to those who benefited from their brave acts. This year’s observance is meant to augment the historical record, and give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve.

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme has produced an educational package on these rescuers. Although acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend, the examples of these brave men and women also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.

On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care – the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity. Their example can help us build a better world today.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations / Nations Unies


WNBA-Charlotte also recommends this book about WWII, the Holocaust, and some of the women who chose resistance:

An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

By Caroline Moorehead

In January 1943, 230 women of the French Resistance were sent to the death camps by the Nazis who had invaded and occupied their country. This is their story, told in full for the first time—a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship. Caroline Moorehead, a distinguished biographer, human rights journalist, and the author of Dancing to the Precipice and Human Cargo, brings to life an extraordinary story that readers of Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken will find an essential addition to our retelling of the history of World War II—a riveting, rediscovered story of courageous women who sacrificed everything to combat the march of evil across the world.

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera; a midwife; a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of sixteen, who scrawled “V” (for victory) on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to one another, hailing from villages and cities across France—230 brave women united in defiance of their Nazi occupiers—they were eventually hunted down by the Gestapo. Separated from home and loved ones, imprisoned in a fort outside Paris, they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

Drawing on interviews with these women and their families, and on documents in German, French, and Polish archives, A Train in Winter is a remarkable account of the extraordinary courage of ordinary people—a story of bravery, survival, and the enduring power of female friendship.


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