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In the Lion's Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen


In the Lion's Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen Cover

ISBN13: 9780195039054
ISBN10: 019503905x
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Publisher Comments:

Few lives shed more light on the complex relationship between Jews and Christians during and after the Holocaust--or provide a more moving portrait of courage--than Oswald Rufeisen's. A Jew passing as a Christian in occupied Poland, Rufeisen worked as translator for the German police--the very people who rounded up and murdered the Jews--and repeatedly risked his life to save hundreds from the Nazis. In this gripping biography, Nechama Tec, a widely acclaimed writer on the Holocaust, recounts Rufeisen's remarkable story.

A youth of seventeen when World War II began, Rufeisen joined the exodus of Poles who fled the approaching German army. Tec vividly describes how Rufeisen used his ability to speak fluent German to pass as half German and half Polish in Mir, where he came to serve as translator and personal secretary to the German in charge of the gendarmerie. As he carried out his duties--reading death sentences to prisoners, swearing in new police officers before a portrait of Hitler--he earned the trust and affection of the German commander, yet lived in constant fear of discovery. He used his position to pass secret information to Jews and Christians about impending "aktions" and to sabatoge Nazi plans. Most notably, he thwarted the annihilation of the Mir ghetto by arming hundreds of doomed Jews and organizing their escape, and saved an entire Belorussian village from destruction. Denounced, Rufeisen escaped and found shelter in a convent, where he converted to Catholicism. Though a pacifist, he spent the rest of the war fighting in a Russian partisan unit.

After the war, Father Daniel (as he is now known) became a priest and a Carmelite monk. Identifying himself as a Christian Jew and an ardent Zionist, he moved to Israel, where he challenged the Law of Return in a case that reached the High Court and attracted international attention. Today he continues to devote himself to bridging the gap between Christians and Jews.

In the Lion's Den offers a stirring portrait of a Jewish rescuer during the Holocaust and its aftermath, illuminating the intricate connections between good and evil, cruelty and compassion, and Judaism and Christianity.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 249-268) and index.

About the Author

Nechama Tec is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. She is the author of When Light Pierced the Darkness, Dry Tears, and other writings which explore the rare aspects of human experience during the Holocaust.

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fencersmother, February 29, 2008 (view all comments by fencersmother)
Riveting first two-thirds of this biography! The horrors of the impending Holocaust combined with the subject's ignorance of his future make for fine reading. Tec essentially bypasses the reasons for Rufeisen's conversion (truly a novel unto itself!) and the reader is left somewhat confused at the end.

But, a wonderful read for any student of 20th century history.
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Product Details

Tec, Nechama
Oxford University Press, USA
null, Nechama
New York :
Military - World War II
World war, 1939-1945
Historical - Holocaust
History, World | European | Eastern Europe
Christian converts from Judaism.
Jews -- Poland.
Edition Number:
Series Volume:
no. 132
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
10 halftones
9.38x6.32x1.06 in. 1.48 lbs.

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Biography » Historical
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History and Social Science » World History » Holocaust
Languages » ESL » General
Religion » Judaism » History

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