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An Army Of Schindlers
Topic Started: May 5 2005, 09:11 AM (487 Views)
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Time to put something here
Last night we had a guest speaker at our monthly "Order sons of Italy" meeting named Walter Wolff a Jew that escaped Nazi Germany at the onset of WWII
and author of the book "Bad Times Good People":

Posted Image

The book is a chronicle of his life and the times in which he lived. Last night he gave us a slide presentation on the content of the book (and so his life). How he was born and raised in Germany until the Jews began to be persecuted. That how at the onset Jews where allowed to leave (told to leave) Germany and how they where turned away form entering countries such as America and other western nations. Which he said was one of the saddest things about the times, that many Jews could have been saved at that time if only these countries carried enough to open their boards to them.

He went on to tell us more about his personal story, about how he and his brother where accepted into an American university, which they used as a way to be set free form a German interment camp (I don’t recall the name of the camp now). The Germans set him and his brother free, but told them they must leave the country immediately. He told us about how he then went to the American consulate, with documentation proving he had been accepted into an American school, but was denied a student visa and entry into the untied states. He attributed this denial to anti-Semitism.

He then told us about how he went running form consulate to consulate looking for a country that would accept him and his family, and how the only one that didn’t turn him away was the Italian consulate. Walter told us how the man running the Italian consulate told him that all Walter needed was an identifying document, any document forged or other wise and then they would be let into Italy. Walter and his family bought a couple of boat passes to show the man, and he made good on his word and let them into the country.

Walter then went on to tell us what it was like to be a Jew in Italy during WWII. About how overwhelmingly the Italian people helped the Jews the best they could with much success. He told us personal stories, like about how one time while living in a small town (the Italians didn’t believe Jewish families should be split up and interred, so they allowed them to live in small towns all across Italy) the Italian police chief, that was tasked with looking over the Jews, came to Walter’s apartment late one night and told Walter that in the morning he had secret orders to arrest all the Jews in the town and deport them to Germany. That he wished Walter well and went on to the next Jewish home with his message. Or how an Italian priest and a government employ got Walter forged working papers so that Walter could get a legitimate job in Italy to feed his family. He last told us about an old woman who gave him room and board (this was when people thought he was a legitimate worker) only to discover that this old woman had a basement in her house in which she was hiding a Jewish family, two American fighter pilots that had been shot down, and an English solder. The old woman was using the money she got form Walter to feed them.

This is what inspired Walter to write his book “Bad times Good people”. He wanted to tell the story about how during the worst time in our history Italy was a country full of good and helpfully people that tried to save as many Jews as they could.

Walter also gave us other less personal information about the times, one of the hand outs he had us read is below.


Ms. Rabinowitz Wall Street Journal
22, December, 1993

By Dorothy Rabinowitz

Oskar Schindler, flawed hero of Steven Spielberg's monumental 11m, "Schindler's list," came to Poland a profiteer and ended up a rescuer of many hundreds of Jewish lives. His story's entry into the world, via Mr. Spielberg's justly celebrated film, calls to mind a number of other unlikely rescuers of whose exploits little has yet been heard, however much they are known to historians.

I haw in mind, namely, Hitler’s allies, the Italians, whose government ministries and army and highest political circles moved heaven and earth to see to it that not a single Jew was deported tram Italy. They schemed, they plotted, they resorted to the wiliest of strategies and delaying efforts-including the invention of the most wonderfully complicated "census-taking" known to man - to ensure that no Jews under their govemance fell into German hands. Not for nothing does the history of these plots sometimes read like farce.

None of this can mitigate the facts of the unspeakable fate that ultimately befell some 8,000 Italian Jews when the Germans finally marched in-nor the harsh anti-Jewish legislation Mussolini introduced in 1938. Still, there is no doubt that, were it not for what the Germans so bitterly described, in their cables, as the peculiar "Italian
attitude" of protection toward the Jews, far more than the 20% of the Italian Jewish population that was annihilated would haw been shipped to their deaths.

Unlike countries like Bulgaria and, for a time at least, France-which resisted deporting their Jewish nationals but were prepared to deliver their foreign-bom Jews-the Italians refused to deport Jews, period.

Their refusal (like that of Hitler’s other temporary ally. the Finns)
was based on a full awareness of what awaited any Jew deported for "resettlement." Berlin was naturally was naturally bitter over this intransigence. The telegrams from Bureau IV of the Reich Security Head Office-command post for the final Solution - flew thick and fast with inquiries as to when Italy could be expected to begin handling its Jews OWL The answer from the Italians was an unbending - if silent "Never." And indeed, so long as Fascist Italy remained independent, and until its occupation by the Germans in 1943, the answer was the same.

Not only would the Italian government - reflecting the popular attitude
of the citizenry at large - resist deportation, its army and consuls undertook extraordinary efforts to rescue Jews in their zones of
occupation. As an Axis partner, Italy's forces occupied a large sector
of Greece, part of Yugoslavia and eight sectors of southeastern France,
including Nice.

The attitude of the occupying Italians with regard to Germany’s
extermination plans for the Jews was made immaculately clear, to the
great distress and confusion of the Germans and their French allies.
For, as soon as the Vichy police in these areas busied themselves rounding up Jews for 8nest and deportation, the Italian military and
foreign ministry demanded - and obtained - a stop to the arrests and
deportations .
In Annecy, the French police, who had rounded up a trainload of Jews for deportation, found them Selves looking at the barrels of guns trained on
them by soldiers of the Italian Fourth Army. Yielding to this forceful
persuasion, the French released the Jews.

In Salonika as elsewhere, as historians Leon Poliakov and Jacques Sabile
document, the Italians offered more than tolerant protection. In
Greece, the Italian consuls and military - witness to the brutal
deportations taking place before their eyes - busied them selves handing
out phony certificates of "Italian nationality" to the hunted Jews.
Italian officers spirited Jews away to safety on military trains and, as
survivors haves attested, they undertook, in every possible way, to cheer
them on and assure them of their protection. In Poland, Italian troops
gave aid and comfort to the hunted Jews.

In Nice, the Italian commandant stationed carabinieri outside the Jewish
communal center and synagogue to make certain that Vichy police could
not enter to make arrests. Elsewhere in southeastern France where the
Vichyite police (on orders from the Germans) decreed that the Jews be
made to wear the yellow star, the Italian generals countermanded the order. It was. they answered, "inconsistent with the dignity of the Italian army" that in areas of its control Jews should be made to wear
"this stigmatizing badge."

The dignity of the army. Such a quaintly improbable ring the words have
in the context of the unrivaled honors being inflicted daily by the
armies of the Reich and their accomplices. They' were flawed heroes of a
kind different from Schindler, these servants of Mussolini's Fascist
state. It has been argued that there were elements of political concern
in Rome's refusal to cooperate in the murder of the Jews - but no one
can attribute anything but humanitarian revulsion at the Germans'
policies in the activates of the Italians who strove so assiduously to
save lives in the territories they occupied.

What there was in the character of the Italians that made their
resistance to mass murder so implacable, so different from that of the
\/ichyite French, is a question we may ponder - and one- for whose
existence we can be grateful

Ms. Rabinowitz Wall Street Journal, 22, December, 1993

No link sorry, go to the library.


“Though 7,600 perished, most of the Italian Jews survived the Holocaust. This was primarily, because the Italian authorities obstructed the Nazi program of deportation and genocide, and because of the relative lack of anti-Semitism among Italians” – Inscription at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.


We had gone over the Italian resistance when we went over this portion of history in school. But I didn’t know how wide spread and meaningful it was until last night hearing form Walter Wolff and I thought it was good information to post.

I also thought it was a good lesson for our times, where it is easy to blame all or much of the Islamic religion and community for our current wows. Italy was the right hand country to Germany and yet much of its population fought silently against the atrocities of the time, even today their story isn’t fully know. To me that emphases why we should be slow to criticize and be angry with the Islamic community. That its not a given that they feel the same way their leaders do.

A man who helps Walter (Walter just turned 88 a few days ago, we also celebrated his birthday with him last night) who is of Italian decent. Told us a story about asking his uncle why the Italians went out of their way to help the Jews, even at the risk of their own lives. His Uncle, first criticizing him for thinking like an American for even needing to ask the question, said the reason they helped the Jews was not because they wanted to help Jews, but because they wanted to help fellow Italians and their family who happened to be Jews. That them being Jews had nothing to do with it, that they where just helping their own.
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Data's Cat's Sister
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That's a nice story, if you know what I mean. There are so many untold stories of bravery and self sacrifice about World War Two and the holocost.

A couple of years ago there was a documentary on about German children who had been sent to live with British families. Some of them were just babies when came to Britain and so if they were lucky enough to get to go home to Germany they didn't even speak the language and were strangers to their parents. Still it was nice that they had good homes while the war was on.
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Fleet Admiral Assistant wRench, Chief Supper Officer
Dandandat what a beautiful post. Thank you.

I came on here today wondering what I could write about Holocaust Rememberance Day which is today. (Probably the reason for your speaker last night)

Italy was in a unique position. They were allied with Germany - but not occupied by it. Another country that was allied with Germany but refused to deport thier Jews was Japan. My mother lived in Japanese occupied China during the war.

When you mentioned the many countries that closed thier doors to Jews I was reminded once again that I am alive today because of the one country that had an open door policy. China.

I am also alive because of a "Righteous Gentile" (the term Jews use to describe those who helped save lives) in Germany. The boat to China was full - but this man sold my Grandmother his tickets because he knew that as a Jewish family they needed the tickets more urgently. My Grandfather was in a camp at the time and was one of those released upon the promise that he would leave immediately.

We should remember what these people did to save lives. We, as North Americans, should also remember what our current countries did not do. They closed thier borders to refugees. One of the most famous incidences was what has become known as the "Voyage of the Damned" the story of the "St. Louis" which was turned away from many ports before returning to Germany.

There is an excellent book written about the anti-semitism in Canada at the time called "None is Too Many" by Irving Abella and Harold Troper. Any Canadians seeing this should look up this book.

It is important to remember so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Dante - your drawing the parallel between this and how some people see Muslims is an excellent example. I actually said something similar earlier today on another thread.

Thank you once again for a thought provoking and wonderful post. And my heartfelt thanks to the peoples of Italy, Japan and China for what they did in those dark days.
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