Debórah Dwork is the Rose Professor of Holocaust History and the Director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies at Clark University in the USA.She is a prolific author and her now classic Children With a Star gave voice to the silenced children of the Holocaust. Asociatia Tikvah asked Deborah to write a short introduction to the rescue section of our website and she graciously agreed.
“Thousands of non-Jews, as well as many Jews (persecuted themselves), refused to be passive in the face of the evil they witnessed during the Holocaust. At great personal risk and often endangering their loved ones, they took it upon themselves to rescue Jews they knew, as well as Jews they had never met before. Their efforts were moments of grace in an abyss of atrocities. These heroic women and men stand as role models for us today, for their lives illustrate that every human being has the capacity to act humanely. “
“Rescue efforts to save Jews and other targeted people were organized throughout Europe, in villages, towns, and cities. Not every effort was successful, and far too often powerful people who could have helped did not. Still: women and men, from many different countries, of all social classes, religions and occupations, youngsters to elderly, confronted and combated what they knew to be wrong. The rescuers realized that they lived in a world in which exceptional evil had become an unexceptional occurrence, and common courtesy to their targeted neighbors had become an uncommon kindness. They held fast to a moral code of good and evil that valued life and forbade murder. They refused to give in. They found, or were faced with, an opportunity to help – and they did. In so doing, they left us a legacy of action and hope.”
Remembering the heroism
It is important to remember the evil of the Holocaust, but just as important to remember the acts of heroism that took place.
There were people from Oradea and surrounding areas who helped the Jews who were under threat during the Holocaust years. We would like to acknowledge them in this part of our website.
We know only some of the names, but it is very important for us to search for information and evidence about those others who helped so that their names and actions can be more widely recognised. If you have any information, please let us know.
There has been some important historical research undertaken by Professor Antonio Faur at the University of Oradea into both the identity of Romanians (and others) who helped the beleagured Jews of Oradea. He has also identified a number of different escape routes that existed not only for the local population of Jews, but also for those from farther afield.
There is a clear need for further research and analysis into this interesting area.
One particular event, the "Escape from the ghetto", has involved Asociatia Tikvah in much research and over the coming months we hope to tell the stories of a number of the families who managed to avoid deportation through the device of creating a "fake" typhus epidemic.
The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority
In Israel, Yad Vashem runs the Righteous Among Nations project which formally recognises, after verification, individuals
who made a significant contribution to saving Jews in the Holocaust.
The list as at 1 January 2018 covering Hungary includes the following individuals from Oradea as at the relevant time Oradea came under Hungarian rule:
Name and Year in which recognised Appan, Kalman and Maria 1987, Farkas, Istvan and Rozalia 1987, Muranyi Rozsi 1969, Szakadati, Janos and Juliana 1980. The list as at 1 January 2018 covering Romania as a whole can be found here. The following testimonies are taken from Yad Vashem.
Lt Kalman Appan
As a member of the Oradea railway station command, Lt. Kalman Appan helped Jewswho were forced to work on the tracks by stamping their assignment papers for long-distance travel to repair non-existent damage from accidents that never happened, thereby allowing them to skip entire workdays.
When he was later appointed manager of a soap factory (Iohanna), he managed to relocate the factory outside of the ghetto. In this way, Appan was able to smuggle the thirty-seven Jews hiding in the attic, whom Appan’s wife had been feeding, out of the ghetto. Among these Jews were Rabbi Weiss and his family, Rabbi Fuchs, and the Iacob Schreiber family. Three weeks later, Nicolae Bodoran obtained a truck and smuggled all thirty seven across the border. The Appan family fled to Budapest after the authorities discovered what had happened, and there they continued their rescue efforts by opening a shelter for several Jewish families.
Istvan and Rozalia Farkas
In September 1944, Eugen Szabo (formerly Salzberger), a young Jew, was in a forced labour battalion of the Hungarian army stationed near the city of Oradea. Farkas agreed to hide Szabo in the cellar of his home, together with eight of his friends from the labour battalion.
During the war, Rozsa Muranyi lived in Oradea Mare in Transylvania. After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Muranyi hid eight Jews from April 23,1944 until October 12, 1944, when the city was liberated.
Janos and Juliana Szakadati
In 1944, Janos Szakadati and his wife Juliana owned a perfumery in Oradea. Their store was near the ghetto in which the Germans and Hungarians had interned the Jews of the city and the surrounding area prior to deporting them to the death camps. The Szakadatis came daily to throw food to the Jews in the ghetto without receiving anything in return and at great risk to their own lives. Moreover, from May1941 until the end of the war, the Szakadatis hid a Jewish girl in their home.
Other individuals not formally recognised
There are other individuals who have not been formally recognised by Yad Vashem but where there is sufficient evidence of their heroisim to be listed here.
Sanyi Papp was a young man who played a significant role in one of the escapes from the ghetto. His testimony and supporting evidence is here.
Istvan Toth and Imre Reviczky
Istvan Toth and Imre Reviczky were two soldiers in charge of Jews in forced labour. The testimony of Armin Simonvits, one of the forced labourers is here.
Dr Konrad Beothy and Gyula Ladi
These two individuals played an important role in the escape of many individuals from the ghetto. The testimony of the former Marta Steiner, one of the escapees, can be found here.
Testimony to follow shortly.
The Romanian Consul-General Mihai Marina was based in Oradea during the most critical period of World War II as far as the Jews of Oradea were concerned and played an important role in trying to protect and help them.
Constantin Karadja held a number of diplomatic posts across Europe (including Germany) during World War II and was influential with the Romanian Government in protecting many Jews from deportation.
Further details on Marina and Karadja are to be found here.
Some clergymen also protested the persecution of the Jews and worked to help them. Gheorghe Mangra, manager of a religious school in Oradea (Seminarul Roman Unit), and teacher Emil Maxim hid several Jewish children in the school building.
They note that Sister Schlachta travelled to Rome and personally presented to the Pope a secret report she had compiled on Jewish persecution in Slovakia. As a result of her efforts the Slovak bishops took an energetic stand against the Nazis and put an end to deportations from Slovakia. While in Rome she also had discussions with Cardinal Spellman. Margit Schlachta also sent a circular letter to 500 Hungarian members of parliament, blaming them for the unlawful appropriation of Jewish property.
The Sisters organised courses to explain and condemn Hitlerite doctrines and to teach Christian charity.
The Sisters worked inside ghettos and sheltered (yellow-star) houses, helping many Jews to escape. The Sisters claim that roughly a thousand Jews were rescued including an estimated 20 people from the ghetto of Oradea.
The people of Denmark
One of the more remarkable rescues of Jews in World War II was undertaken by almost the whole population of Denmark. This is illustrated in our travelling exhibition "Lights in the Night". We have, with considerable help from Danish colleagues (in particular Professor Therkel Straede), prepared a history of the extraordinary Danish resistance against the Nazi's wish to deport the Jewish population to concentration camps.
Do read the story here.
Some famous observations on bystanders
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
"First they came…......" is a version of the famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
The text illustrates, amongst other things, how easy it is to do nothing and to be a bystander. Holocaust survivor, writer, Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel wrote: ‘What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander’
The Silence of the Bystander
Where in this holocaust is the word of God? ...
The world was silent; the world was still.
And now, survivors stammer; their words are haunted.
Behind their words: silence.
Behind the silence,
a witness to the sin of silence...
And in the camps and streets of Europe
mother and father and child lay dying,
and many looked away.
To look away from evil:
Is this not the sin of all “good” people?
Perhaps some of the blame falls on me,
Because I kept silent, uttered no cry.
Fear froze my heart and confused my mind.
And I did not resist the lie...
Cowardice came down and walked the earth.
We hid our true feelings from one another.
We did not hear the cry of a friend.
And our own cry we often had to smother....
Courage was branded treason,
Betrayal was called heroic, bold.
Light hung its head in shame,
Waiting that at least one man should cry out:
“No!” but no one cried.
Only one thing was left—the patience to wait,
To wait that justice might prevail one day.
Perhaps that was part of my blame,
That I kept silent, did not speak,
As though I had nothing to say