When students hear the word Holocaust, thoughts of death, Hitler, concentration camps, gas chambers, and the Jewish community at the time fill their heads. Dr. Paul R. Bartrop, Professor of History at the Florida Gulf Coast University, devoted time to focus on the evil seen during Holocaust, but also the accounts of hope that can be seen throughout the genocide.
“The work in which I engage is all too often marked by the most awful manifestations of human behavior. This is why I like to search out cases that might lift me out of the horror,” Bartrop stated about his area of study.
According to Bartrop, audiences in today’s generations hear a lot of Nazi evil, but not enough of those who helped people survive the evil. They should be the role models for today’s youth about how to act.
“There is always a way out of a dead end situation, and people did try and were sometimes successful in escaping,” Bartrop explained.
During his presentation, Bartrop gave some examples of people who went out of their way and put their own life in danger to help Jewish people during this time of crisis.
“The main forms of help extended by the Righteous among the Nations during the Holocaust fitted into one of four main categories: hiding Jews in the rescuer’s home, or on their property; providing false papers and false identities; smuggling and assisting Jews to escape; and, through various means, rescuing Jewish children,” Bartrop said proving that any act from the smallest to the largest can make a difference to help save people.
“The Holocaust was a time when living space, food, sanitation facilities, and medicine were at a premium, and those who hid Jews from the Nazis risked their own lives as well as those of their families,” Bartrop stated.
According to Bartrop, families or individuals who were found guilty of helping people survive they were executed either on the spot or at a later time to be seen as examples to others. He further said that he is surprised that with all the risks that there still was a large number of people who but their own lives and their family’s lives in danger to help and make a difference.
One example that Bartrop shared took place in Denmark, right before the round up of the Jewish population by the Nazis.
“In Denmark, when the round-up and arrest of all of Denmark’s 7,800 Jews was ordered for Oct. 1, 1943, only a very few could be found. The whole community had been tipped off two days before by a German diplomat, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz,” Bartrop said retelling the account that showed hope.
The Jewish people from Denmark were put into safe homes and they were also brought to the countryside until the non-Jewish community was able to secure safe passage for as many people as possible, according to Bartrop.
During the time of the Holocaust not one deed was considered more righteous than another, according to Bartrop. Every person who put their lives on the line to help people wanted to make a difference and help instead of continue with the death and the extermination. Another example Bartrop spoke of was an older woman, whose name is unknown, who not only saved the lives of many Jewish people, but also their books and artifacts to preserve their culture.
“There can be no greater act of righteousness than the saving of an innocent human life in danger, but what can we say about other acts of selfless courage that see people put themselves in danger to save the cultural, religious or other artifacts of another people’s entire identity?” Bartrop said.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis wanted to eliminate an entire culture not just the humans. They wanted the religion, the culture, the citizens, and their entire ideology to disappear, according to Bartrop.
“Nazis did not kill Jews for game, especially since the Jews did not have a country or wealth. They were killed simply on the basis of ideology and based on the thesis of pure thought,” Bartrop said when explaining the reasoning behind the genocide.
During his research, Bartrop expressed that every account left him in shock and surprise but one example that struck him was of a boy from Czechoslovakia named Tomi.
“Tomi and his mom were hidden by their neighbor’s family and lived out the war years in the only available space in the house, a bathroom,” Bartrop said.
They spent most, if not all of their time, in the bathroom, except when the possibilities of the Nazis coming into town and into homes, they would spend days and sometimes even weeks in a small cupboard, according to Bartrop who recalled the account.
“They survived the war, and they had an amazing sense of hope that they would get through,” Bartrop said.
The neighbors, according to Bartrop, got no reward for helping the small Jewish family get through the war years, not even money for their upkeep.
“That’s amazing to me,” Bartrop said, sitting back in his chair after finishing telling the account.
These are just a few of the many accounts of hope and good that occurred during the Holocaust, but what we forget or do not know is that the Holocaust was not the only genocide to occur, explained Bartrop.
There have been examples of hope in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Armenia, and many others who had to suffer through genocides, and today genocides are still seen as a solution to numerous problems in other countries and cultures, explained Bartrop.
“I’m less likely to say, “never again” but I would like to say, “don’t forget.” Bartrop stated.