The Righteous of Austria

The Righteous of Austria. Heroes of the Holocaust, 2006.
(Preface by the editors and the Austrian Foreign Minister)

Since 1953, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem began documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, preserving the memory and story of each of its six million victims. While remembering those who died, Yad Vashem has likewise been determined to remember those who were rescuers - non-Jews, who risked their lives and those of their families to save their Jewish neighbors - and are recognized as the ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’

In a recent book entitled, The Righteous of Austria. Heroes of the Holocaust, the Holocaust memorial institution honors eighty-six non-Jewish Austrians who risked their freedom and safety to help the Jews survive the Shoa by publishing their stories. They were ‘ordinary people,’ young and old alike from various social strata, holding diverse political convictions and religious views. Yet, as Jakob Borut, volume editor and author of the book’s introduction, points out, they were unusual: “What was unusual about these rescuers was their empathy toward persecuted human beings and their human urge to swim against the stream. In extending help….they displayed the finest characteristics of humanity in an historical and geographical context where the display of such characteristics was a rare act and one fraught with much danger.”

These stories are told because they lived the ancient Talmudic principle of: “Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world.” Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, himself a Holocaust survivor, commented on such figures: “We must know these good people who helped the Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.”

The book was published in 2006 in celebration of fifty years of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel. It was financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, translated into English and presented in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp by the Allied Forces on May 5, 1945.