The International School for Holocaust Studies
The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations – Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust
Reviewed by Dr. Gideon Greif
Editor-in-Chief: Israel Gutman
Yad Vashem, 2003 through 2007
Eight volumes to date
"Even in the darkest period of the Nazi occupation, a few lights still flickered in the shape of the Righteous Among the Nations. They represent the best of humankind, brotherhood, justice, and tolerance... In Jerusalem, Yad Vashem commemorates those who risked their lives, who regarded nothing but the dictates of their own heart and conscience, and who saved Jews."
–Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic of France
The concept of "Righteous Among the Nations" is based on a Rabbinic precept whereby one who saves one life is considered to have saved an entire world. How did this idea manifest itself during the Holocaust? There were people who adopted Jewish children and passed them off as nieces or nephews who had been recently orphaned. Others hid strangers in attics and shared with them their own meager supply of food, or else supplied former workmates with forged identity papers.
Over the past five decades, Yad Vashem has acknowledged approximately 20,000 people as Righteous Among the Nations. They come from all nations, all religions, and all walks of life. Each has a human story that represents the preservation of human values in a world suffering utter moral collapse. They prove that in spite of great danger, there were still people who were willing to take enormous risks in order to fulfill the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself." These ordinary people have become cultural heroes and symbols of courage. They are rays of hope, role models, and inspirations.
The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations presents an authentic record of some of the most moving and heroic acts of our time, and is a fitting tribute to the men and women who performed them.
The Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations will be published in eight volumes: one focusing on France, one on Belgium, two on Holland, two on Poland, one on Eastern Europe (including Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia) and one on Western Europe (including Armenia, Austria, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States of America). The encyclopedia highlights the stories of those Righteous Among the Nations who have been acknowledged by Yad Vashem up until the year 2000. A further volume of additional entries will be issued in the future. Each volume includes a general preface, a specific introduction about the Righteous Among the Nations in the particular countries in that volume, entries for each individual designated as Righteous Among the Nations, photographs, maps, and an explanation of terms. For now, certain volumes of the encyclopedia have been published in English. In the future, the encyclopedia will also be published in other languages.
For more information about the Righteous Among the Nations, click here.