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Righteous Gentiles and Jews They Rescued to Meet in Washington

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An unprecedented conference on rescuers of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust will take place in Washington in September, it was announced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the conference’s sponsor.

Preparations are under way for 500 scholars, survivors and their rescuers, from North America, Europe and Israel, to participate in the gathering to be held September 17-19.

The conference, titled “Faith in Humankind: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, ” is to bring together rescuers and those they saved “to bear witness to what has been done and to what could have been done to help Jews during the Holocaust,” according to Dr. Carol Rittner, a Catholic nun who is the conference’s coordinator.

Three hundred of the rescuers, “as many as we know are still living,” have been invited, said Sheila Summers, a spokesperson for the Council in a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Many of the conference’s discussions, meetings and oral histories will be recorded for future use by scholars and students. They will be stored in Washington in the archives of the planned U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Among those scheduled to attend the gathering are Secretary of State George Shultz and Gideon Hausner, former Attorney General of Israel and the prosecutor of Adolf Eichmann. Author Elie Wiesel, who is chairman of the Council, will make the opening remarks at the conference.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CONFERENCE

The gathering will feature full sessions and work shops focusing on conditions in occupied Europe which either inhibited or enabled non-Jews to aid Jews. One session will be devoted to the French community of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which during the war sheltered more than 2,000 Jews. Among those on the session’s panel will be Magda Trocme, wife of Pastor Andre Trocme, Le Chambon’s leader, and some of the Jews the community helped save.

According to Summers, the conference proceedings will aim to shed light on what she called the conference’s major theme, “Who were the Righteous Gentiles and what can we learn from them?”

Summers said that the participants will place the testimonials, scholarly insight, and discussions presented into the larger context: what is the legacy of the rescuers? what should be the place of the Righteous Gentiles in history books? does their conduct during the Holocaust alter the relationship between Jews and Christians? how should knowledge about their behavior during the Holocaust shape decisions today?

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which is responsible for planning the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was established by Congress in 1980 to foster nationwide remembrance of the Holocaust.

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