The movie, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” has finally been released in theaters. I am ecstatic! I have been waiting at least two years for this movie to debut. It is the story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski who managed the Warsaw Zoo and during WWII, they saved approximately 300 Jews from genocide. They were later honored by the Yad Vashem and considered the Righteous Among the Nations.
Those who rescued Jews were an interesting breed of people. No two were exactly alike; their motives for risking their lives and the lives of their families varied.
Some were like Corrie ten Boom and believed that the Jewish were God’s chosen people and had to be spared.
Others were like Oskar Schindler, who never set out to save Jews, yet he fell in love with his Jewish workers. "I knew the people who worked for me. When you know people, you have to behave towards them like human beings." Schindler said, when asked why he did what he did. Though not a “good” man by the standards of most, when others looked away, Schindler helped.
Leopold Socha, a former thief turned sewer worker, stumbled upon several Jewish people hiding in the sewers of Lvov. He promised to help them for a price, and then influenced by his Catholic faith and the friendship that developed, he continued to hide them when they could no longer afford to pay him. After the war, he died saving his own daughter’s life and the ones he hid returned to honor his memory.
Miep Gies knew the Frank and van Pels families and Fritz Pfeffer personally and insisted that she never did anything heroic. She simply did what many other Dutch countrymen and women did. That she saved Anne Frank’s diary was by sheer happenstance.
Stefania Podgorska also knew two of the thirteen people she rescued, and after the war she married one of them.
Irena Sendler’s father had been a physician and died treating poor Jewish people who had typhus. He had always taught her that, “If you see a man drowning, you must jump in and save him, even if you cannot swim.” That belief led her to become a social worker and then become involved with Zegota; in turn she and numerous others saved 2500 lives.
The rescuers were simply ordinary people who were given the chance to do the right thing. That was the one thing they all had in common.
I’m going to end this post with one of my favorite prayers: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”