Saturday, October 10, 2015

Courage in the Face of Evil

Many years ago I read the Booker prize-winning Schindler's Ark, by Thomas Keanally. Later it was made into the powerful film called  Schindler's List. They tell the story of Oskar Schindler, an enterpeneur and Nazi party member who saved at least 1.200 Jews from certain death during the Second World War.

Schindler's Ark cover.png

I have also read about Raoul Wallenberg, a lesser known Swedish diplomat who saved many more Jews than Schindler while serving as Sweden's special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944. He is sued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory Wallenberg disappeared at the end of the war, either dead at 34 or incarcerated in a Soviet prison.

We have to admire the courage of these people, and all those "righteous Gentiles" whose names we don't know. The most recent person to come to my attention was a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara, who is the subject of a book

TOKYO — As world attention is focused on the plight of migrants fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, a Japanese diplomat who risked everything to save thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II is finally getting his due.

Chiune Sugihara was Japan’s vice consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, when he defied government orders and issued travel visas allowing thousands of Jewish refugees to escape Nazi persecution in 1940. He later resigned under pressure from the Foreign Ministry and spent years in self-imposed exile.

Sugihara issued more than 2,000 visas and saved more than 6,000 lives. He wrote many of the documents by hand during a feverish five-week period, passing the last out of the window of his train after his consulate was closed and he was ordered to leave the country.

“Sugihara is proof that one person’s choice to take action in the face of evil — whatever the consequences — can make a difference,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Have you ever wondered if you would be able to summon the courage to risk your life in the way these people did. I hope my answer would be "yes," in part because I am a Christian, but I can't be sure. What does motivate people to resist evil with such bravery?

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