Two years ago, Mina Lobo started the tradition of the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal, and it’s been going strong ever since. Click on the above button to go to the A to Z homepage for the full list of participants.
My main blog’s theme is something I got the idea for from the last post of the 2014 Challenge. Some readers might remember that post, about Zagreb, Croatia, included a section on Ivan Vranetić, one of my heroes, a Croatian who stood strong against both the Nazis and Ustashis. One of the many people he saved was his own future wife, whom he had to wait almost 20 years to marry.
Hence, my theme (with four quasi-exceptions) is going to be:
I’m going to be profiling those brave individuals who’ve been honoured by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, people who risked everything to save the lives of their Jewish friends and neighbours, sometimes even people they’d never met before. Some paid the ultimate price for their heroism; others were persecuted or shamed after the war for their actions; others continued helping people and aiding in the persecution of war criminals after the liberation. None of them did this to try to get any sort of reward, nor did they ask for or expect special treatment. It was just the right thing to do.
Three of my heroes were Jewish victims of the Shoah, and thus aren’t eligible for this prestigious honour. However, they also acted heroically, and did everything they could to save lives and ameliorate suffering. Another person has posthumously gotten several honours and memorials, but hasn’t been named as Righteous Among the Nations due to his complicated role in the war. However, he’s been one of my heroes since I first learnt about him at age sixteen, so I just had to include him.
These people were both Christians and Muslims, from nations including Egypt, El Salvador, Bosnia, Macedonia, Greece, Switzerland, Albania, and Ireland. Some of them saved tens of thousands of people, while others saved just one family or individual. However, there’s no “only” when it comes to saving a life. As the famous line in the Talmud says:
Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
Some of these heroes are in alphabetical order by their forenames, while others are alphabetised by their surnames. I chose people with interesting-sounding names, people from places not often heard about in the Shoah/WWII narrative, and lesser-known heroes. A number of these stories will include photographs illustrating some of the places involved, as well as photographs of the heroes when I could find them. All photographs are credited to the best of my knowledge.
You’ll learn about heroes including:
The Hardaga family of Bosnia, whose good turn was repaid 50 years later during the Siege of Sarajevo
Bishop Pavel Gojdič, a fellow Slovakian who refused to betray his Greek Catholic faith
Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, who risked his life and throne by repeatedly standing up to Hitler and refusing to deport his kingdom’s 50,000 Jews
Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat credited with the largest rescue operation of the Shoah, who saved over half the Jewish population of Budapest
Dr. Mohamed Helmy, the first Arab and Egyptian to be honoured as Righteous Among the Nations
The Veseli family of Albania, the first Albanians to become Righteous Among the Nations
Malka (Mala) Zimetbaum, who used her prestigious position to save lives and make people’s lives comparatively more comfortable, and later enjoyed a short-lived escape with her Polish Christian boyfriend Edward (Edek) Galiński. On a superficial note, as someone who loves younger men, I also love her for choosing a man over five years her junior!
The theme on my other blog, Onomastics Outside the Box, will be names from The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic work from Medieval Italy. Since there are certain letters not used in Italian names (or any of the non-Italian names featured), some days will be wildcards and just feature names I like.
In my alternative historical WIP, the Shoah essentially never happens, as the righteous, compassionate Tsar Aleksey II and Tsaritsa Arkadiya save over nine million people and even shelter many of them in the palaces around St. Petersburg. If only history really had happened like that!