Standing Up Stories
Just as our interviewees remember the shock of being bullied, many also told us about how a friend, a neighbor, or a total stranger came to their aid when they needed it most. During the Second World War in German-occupied territories, harboring a Jew was punishable by summary execution, so it meant one literally risked one’s own life to save a Jewish person.
As you will read in this section, the tellers of our tales do not display flashbulb memories, mainly because the process of being saved or hidden was ongoing. It lasted days, weeks, months or even years. And often the people who did the saving never articulated just why they were doing it.
Compared to the Bullying Stories, these Standing Up stories are much longer and far more complex, as they detail the mechanics of rescue and often give us a timeline. And while the majority of those who hid our interviewees did so without telling anyone, in a very few cases, such as Henryk Prajs’s story from Poland, we can read just how many people joined in on the secret—in fact, almost an entire Polish village. In the case of the Kalef sisters from Belgrade, the fact that a school director took them in and didn’t ask for their transfer papers means he knew he shouldn’t ask.
For those interested in what motivates people to become heroes or whistleblowers in this way, we suggest reading the very insightful study entitled Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times, by Eyal Press.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
“A group of Jewish men took me to a barn and led me through the bar mitzvah service as best they could remember it.”
Bosnia & Herzegovina
“My mother was forced to sell her wedding gown for four kilos of flour and a chunk of soap.”
“Father Tumpej didn’t just give me a name. By saving me, he gave me a life.”
“Giorgos Mitziliotis took an immense risk, not only for himself and his family, but also for the whole village.”
“Lithuanians are tacit people. They silently put a bowl with food on the table and heated the bath.”
“The abbess gathered all novices and told them that I was a Jew and would be in hiding there.”
“I have often wondered how the Palaschuk family had such strength and bravery to do what they did.”
"All together I think we were in the barn maybe 20 months.""