While many books have been written recounting the history of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed during World War II, the stories of those heroes who saved Jews are perhaps not as well known. In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews during the Holocaust by Richard Hurowitz highlights some of those remarkable heroes in this well-written and well-researched volume. The attention to detail is clear on every page and in the notes and bibliography of the book which is a fine guide to further reading. Geared towards the general reader, In the Garden of the Righteous showcases the inspiring stories of people who stood up for what was right in the darkest days of WWII.
The book includes a chapter titled On the Glory of Athens, and shares the stories of Archbishop Damaskinos, Angelos Evert, and Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark, among the heroes who saved lives. Also included are “the circus ringmaster Adolf Althoff and his wife Maria, the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, the Polish social worker Irena Sendler, and the Japanese spy Chinue Sugihara, who provided hiding places, participated in underground networks, refused to betray their neighbors, and secured safe passage,” as noted in the book’s description.
The stories are powerful and moving against the backdrop of the horrors of the Second World War with its unfathomable death toll of more than fifty million including the more than six million murdered in the Holocaust. This compelling book reminds us that even in that darkness, there was light as courageous people risked their own lives, defying the authorities over and over, to save the helpless and persecuted. With the rise in anti-Semitism and intolerance today, the book is a timely one as well. Hurowitz quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the book’s introduction: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
He also quotes Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel who wrote: “We must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust… We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.”
As Hurowitz points out, “Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, has recognized more than 27,000 individuals as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’— non-Jewish people such as Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler who risked their lives to save their persecuted neighbors,” noting that the number is “about one person out of twenty thousand” of the European population at the time, so the rescuers were “the rarest of birds.”
According to his biography, Hurowitz is a writer and the founder and publisher of the Octavian Report. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Times (UK), Los Angeles Times, Time, History Today and the Jerusalem Post, among other publications. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and his juris doctor from Columbia Law School. He lives in New York City with his family.
In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews during the Holocaust by Richard Hurowitz is available online and in bookstores.