There have been a number of articles recently about people who saved Jews from the National Socialist policies of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. And this and lighter, yet still related, items have set me to thinking about the issue of ‘rescue’ in our context, in its many and varied forms (there is an interesting article on the general war-time context of ‘rescue’ by USHMM, here: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005185.)
Over the weekend I was sent a link to a story about a British spy who helped save around 10,000 Jews – putting his own safety at risk so that others might survive: https://www.timesofisrael.com/uk-spy-agency-celebrates-agent-who-saved-10000-jews-from-holocaust/.
Towards the end of last year, I was sent an article, from The Guardian, about two sisters who flew back and forth to Germany to rescue Jews – smuggling people out across the borders – again at great risk to themselves: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/05/ida-louise-cook-sisters-helped-jewish-refugees-flee-nazis-spy-mystery-film.
While this period of history was as dark as it gets, it is also important to remember those who helped our families – taking risks of a kind that most of us cannot imagine today.
In our own context, of course, during the events of November 1938, Consul Robert Smallbones was a crucial figure – arranging visas to get people out of Germany, and visiting concentration camps to secure the release of many who had been taken from their families during that dreadful time. Smallbones had been instructed by the British government not to intervene, but did so nevertheless – regardless both of those orders and, again, of his own safety. In 2013, posthumously, he was finally recognised for this work, being awarded a medal as a Hero of the Holocaust: http://www.ajr.org.uk/index.cfm/section.journal/issue.Jun13/article=12732.
In the specific context of Kitchener, we have many people to remember and thank – including the members of the CBF who worked for so many years to get our families to safety – and our thoughts on this must always include the May family – and especially Phineas and Jonas May – the young men who ran Kitchener camp.
Someone needed to step up – and to do so quickly – and Jonas and Phineas May did so. Can any one of us imagine giving up so many months of our lives for others in this way? Even if we think we can imagine it – have we ever made the step to do so? The two things are a world apart: from contemplation to action.
Phineas May’s daughter has recently given us permission to publish her father’s diaries for this Kitchener camp project, and when all the paperwork has been settled, I will be uploading the diary here.
We will be honoured to display her father’s thoughts and writing here.
For an overview of Jewish rescues, see USHMM, here: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005519
There is a lot of good work being done to recognise war-time rescues during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem, of course, has a fair amount of material on this, including some work specifically on women rescuers: http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous-women/index.asp
And about Jewish rescuers: http://www.yadvashem.org/holocaust/about/rescue/rescue-by-jews.html
The Wiener library holds information on this topic as well, for example, at https://wienerlibrary.co.uk/Rescues_of_the_Holocaust
Finally here, a mention of another British man who did so much in such a dreadful time: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/world/europe/nicholas-winton-is-dead-at-106-saved-children-from-the-holocaust.html