The Other Schindlers
Steven Spielberg's epic film focuses on only one of many unsung heroes
It was a desperate tug of war, with Eichmann on one end and Perlasca and the diplomatic representatives of four other neutral states--Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the Vatican--on the other. "The Swede and I would go to the train station and bluff until we got Jews away by claiming they were our nationals." The Swede was Raoul Wallenberg.
Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews eventually died in the Holocaust, but tens of thousands may have been saved by the efforts of Perlasca and the other Budapest diplomats. Shortly before his death in 1993 at 82, Perlasca told Marek Halter: "These people were in danger and I asked why must someone die because they are of another faith? I had a chance to do something. I couldn't refuse." FRANCE RENE RAOUL, SHOEMAKER An entire village took up the cause of European Jews fleeing the deadly Nazi roundups.
When a trickle of refugee families began arriving in the isolated southern French village of Le Malzieu in 1942, 20-year-old shoemaker Rene Raoul and his family asked few questions. "They were people seeking shelter; we provided it."
Little by little the strangers revealed their stories. They were Jews, many of them foreign born and all desperately trying to escape the ruthless Nazi rafles (roundups) that had already resulted in tens of thousands being shipped by cattle car from Paris and Lyon to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. "The Radaczes, the Rothbards, the Brombergs, I remember them all," says Raoul, now 73.
The trickle soon became a stream. By 1943, more than 100 Jews had found sanctuary in Le Malzieu, a tiny farming town of barely 900 souls. It was a dangerous business that few French were ready to risk. But for the villagers of Le Malzieu, it became a noble conspiracy of silence and salvation. When German troops or French gendarmes neared the village, Raoul himself would make the rounds by bicycle warning Le Malzieu's "guests" to go to appointed hiding places in basements, attics and barns. Other villagers occasionally dressed Jewish children in the uniforms of the fascist Vichy youth organization, then mingled them with their own. The local priest hid families in the church belfry.
"I could not bear the idea that people who had done nothing were hunted," explains Raoul, who stays in touch with some of the families he once helped save. "My children knew Jews hid among us during the war. But I never spoke to them of my role. Why should I? What I did was natural. I would do it again for anyone." BOSNIA MUSTAFA AND ZAYNEBA HARDAGA Muslims and Jews were entangled in a skein of persecution and altruism.
The Jewish Cavilios and the Muslim Hardagas had been friends in pre-World War II Sarajevo. When German bombs destroyed the Cavilios' home in 1941, the Hardagas urged them to move in with them. "You are our brothers and sisters," Mustafa and Zayneba Hardaga told them. "Everything we have is yours; this is your home."
Even after the occupying Nazis invoked brutal antisemitic laws and a mob sacked Sarajevo's Great Synagogue, the Hardagas refused to turn away their Jewish friends. A photo taken at the time shows Zayneba wearing a Muslim veil, walking on a Sarajevo street together with Rivka Cavilio and her young daughter, Tova. Rivka is using her pocketbook to shield the yellow Jude star the Nazis forced all Jews to wear.