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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuerby Irene Gut Opdyke
Synopses & Reviews
Raoul Wallenberg's name may not be familiarand#160;to you but the impact he had during World War II is immeasurable.and#160; Raoul was a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest, Hungary, during WWII to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. He did this by issuing protective passports and housing Jews in buildings established as Swedish territory, saving tens of thousands of lives.and#160; Louise Borden has been researching Raoul's story for many years.and#160; She has visited with his family, gone to the site of his home and his workplaces, seen his baby photos, and has learned his story from beginning to end.and#160; Raoul himself cannot tell his story, as he has not been heard from since 1945.and#160; It is suspected he died while in Russian custody, though this has never been proven.
Raoul was born into a banking family, and he studied all over the world as a young man - spending time throughout Europe, in the United States, Mexico, and Africa.and#160; He studied architecture and worked in Israel, and eventually got a job inand#160;Sweden, working for an import-export company. and#160;In 1936, when he had to enlist with the Swedish army, rumblings of war were heavy in the air.and#160; Raoul readMein Kampf; he knew what evil ideas Hitler had.and#160; When war broke out officially in 1939 and 1940, Sweden stayed out of it — only one of a few countries to do so. Sweden was neutral, but Europe was in a very dark place.and#160;and#160;Jews were forced to identify themselves; they lost their jobs, could not travel, could not attend school with non-Jews.and#160; Raoul's life remained mostly unchanged untiland#160; he saw a movie about a man who helped Jews escape — Raoul wanted to help, too.
When Hungary was invaded by the Nazis and the formerly safe Jews were put into terrible danger, Raoul was moved to action. Raoul's boss, a Hungarian Jew, could no longer travel between Sweden and Hungary safely.and#160; Raoul, however, being a citizen of a neutal country, could.and#160; Jews were being deported fromand#160;Hungary in record numbers.and#160; When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was looking for someone familiar with Budapest, and who could mount a rescue mission for the Hungarian Jews, Raoul was the answer.
In 1944, Raoul traveled to Budapest as the First Secretary to the Swedish embassy in Budapest. With another Swedish diplomat Per Anger he issued "protective passports," orand#160;SchutzPasses, which identified the holders as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation and thus prevented their deportation. Although not legal, these documents looked official and were generally accepted by German and Hungarian authorities (along with bribes).and#160;and#160;With support from the American War Refugee Board, Raoul rented 32 buildings in Budapest and declared them to be extraterritorial, protected by diplomatic immunity. He put up signs such as "The Swedish Library" and "The Swedish Research Institute" on their doors and hung oversize Swedish flags on the front of the buildings. These buildings housed almost 10,000 people.and#160; Over 350 people were involved in rescuing the Hungarianand#160;Jews; Raoul slept in a different building each night to avoid being captured by the Hungarian Nazis.and#160;and#160;It was a difficult, scary time, but Raoul knew that he and his large team were doing the right thing.
In 1945, Raoul was suspected of being an American spy by the Russians.and#160;and#160;He likely died while in their custody, though no one knows for sure if he was killled or if he died of natural causes, as the Russians suggest.and#160; He was named an honorary American citizen in 1981, and has been honored in similar ways in numerous other countries.and#160;and#160;
Raoul Wallenberg...it's a name you might not know, but you'll never forget his story.and#160;and#160;
In My Hands began as one non-Jews challenge to any who would deny the Holocaust. Much like The Diary of Anne Frank, it has become a profound document of an individuals heroism in the face of the greatest evil mankind has known.
In the fall of 1939 the Nazis invaded Irene Guts beloved Poland, ending her training as a nurse and thrusting the sixteen-year-old Catholic girl into a world of degradation that somehow gave her the strength to accomplish what amounted to miracles. Forced into the service of the German army, young Irene was able, due in part to her Aryan good looks, to use her position as a servant in an officers club to steal food and supplies (and even information overheard at the officers tables) for the Jews in the ghetto. She smuggled Jews out of the work camps, ultimately hiding a dozen people in the home of a Nazi major for whom she was housekeeper.
An important addition to the literature of human survival and heroism, In My Hands is further proof of why, in spite of everything, we must believe in the goodness of people.
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