What happens when love takes a stand?

The Holocaust. The lowest point of man’s inhumanity to man.

But amidst the horrific evil it spawned were occasional emissaries of extreme goodness.

My dad, who survived the ravages of the Nazi genocide, used to tell me: “There is nothing so bad that something good will not come from it”. This, he assured me, was a quote from the Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, although I have so far failed to confirm that.

It is in that spirit I salute the non-Jewish civilians who stood against the mesmerising Nazism which convulsed Europe for nearly two decades in the last century.

Raoul Wallenberg memorial erected in London by the Wallenberg Appeal Committee - image by permission from wiki images

The Oscar-winning movie Schindler’s List has made Oskar Schindler arguably the best known of those who rescued Jews from almost certain death. Also highly renowned is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved many thousands of Hungarians destined for the death camps*. Among them was my Aunty Hilda.

Sir Nicholas Winton, is another who will always be remembered. As a British diplomat shortly before the Second World War, he foresaw the dangers ahead and arranged for hundreds of Jewish children and others at risk to be brought to Britain.

More recently stories have emerged of religious figures who also stood against the onslaught of the Holocaust.

Last week the Daily Telegraph reported the Reverends Hugh Grimes and Fred Collard “are to be added to the roll of honour of those who helped hundreds of Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis.” (Nazi persecution of Jews: saved by the C of E Schindlers, 12 August 2011.)

Between them they baptised 1800 Jewish people so they would have a better chance to cross the Austrian border and flee the Nazi threat.

The Other Schindlers, recently published by Agnes Grunwald-Spier, who was saved as a baby from being sent to Aushwitz, has a chapter devoted to “rescuers with religious motives”.  Referring to those featured in the book, the Western Daily Press spoke in a review of “moving stories of non-Jews…who braved torture and death to save Jews from the Nazis”

One more story emerged a couple of years ago as I was clearing out some old files in my capacity as UK and Ireland District Manager for Christian Science Committees on Publication.

It was about a Christian Science couple who saved a young Jewish husband and wife in Poland by pretending they were a part of their family.

It was a simple act of extraordinary love by ordinary people in the shadow of the brutal suppression of the Warsaw ghetto.  They were convinced it was not enough to just believe good has power.  They had to do something about it.

There may well be many more files like that gathering dust in the archives of churches and mosques around the world – further tales of people whose convictions will have played an important part in standing against evil.

It has to be said, however, that some religious organisations did not always see the moral demand and live up to it.

But as The Other Schindlers clearly shows, it was individuals, putting their lives on the line in a display of unconditional, self-sacrificing love, who really demonstrated what true religion is all about.

* The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel has a moving section for commemorating acts by The Righteous Among the Nations, which open with the Mishnah “Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5).  It attributes to Raoul Wallenberg the saving of tens of thousands of Jewish lives in Budapest during World War II and records how he put about 15,000 Jews into 32 safe houses.

AUDIO: Agnes Grunwald-Spiers talks about her book “The Other Schindlers”

Agnes will also be appearing on BBC Radio 4 on January 21 of this year (2012) between 9.00 – 10.00a.m. She will be one of Richard Cole’s guests on Saturday Live.


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Categories: Culture and belief, Spirituality and Society

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and edit articles on spirituality from the perspective of the practice of Christian Science as an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the teachings of Christian Science transformed my life and re-shaped my career.


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One Comment on “What happens when love takes a stand?”

  1. January 11, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Thanks to author Agnes Grunwald-Spier for the following note:

    Through Google Alerts, I became aware of your blog – thanks for the publicity. You may wish to know I was interviewed on the World Service on 14 August we discussed the Vienna conversions.

    I am attaching the recording [BLOGGER’S NOTE – NOW ADDED TO END OF BLOG!]. You may also wish to add my website address to your blog [SEE BELOW]. I am new to all this but as you can see the book is doing well.

    Thanks for your interest,

    All the best,

    Agnes Grunwald-Spier
    Author of ‘The Other Schindlers’
    Published by the History Press in 2010

    Website: http://www.agnesgrunwaldspier.com

    Paperback, eBook and Danish editions now available.
    Brazilian edition available in Sept. 2011

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