Survivors by Bob Moore

Subtitled “Jewish Self-Help and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied Western Europe”, Moore’s book is a large tome of work encompassing rescue in the countries of France/Vichy France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden with the focus largely on the first three countries. Moore emphasizes those factors that helped Jews avoid deportation, either through escape or by going underground, and argues that self-help and assistance by non-Jews were seldom mutually exclusive and were often found in combination. The book also highlights those escape routes used by Jews fleeing from the Nazis.

The number of Jews who survived the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied countries varied widely with Jews in Western Europe fairing considerably better than their coreligionists in the East. Around 60 percent of the Jews in Belgium survived in war as did about 75 percent in France and well over 95 percent in Denmark (pg. 5). In contrast, a pitiful 35 percent of Jews in the Netherlands survived — a number much more in line with that of countries in Eastern Europe.

Some of the information was largely repetitive such as that about rescue organizations in Vichy France and children in Amsterdam because the past three books I’ve read for my class on rescue and resistance have been on these topics. Moore also mentions the rescue efforts of Corrie ten Boom, who’s memoir I have read.

One aspect I would like to read more about was the escape of Jews from Denmark to Norway to Sweden. The last book I read for my class focused on the role of Protestantism in rescue, but this book spent a large amount of time focusing on Catholicism and rescue. I found this interesting because the Catholic Church did not apologize for its inaction during the Holocaust until 1998.

Towards the end of the book the question of to whom do those children hidden during the war belong to is asked. In several instances, children were baptized into Christian religions and fostered by Christian families who felt it was their duty to ‘save’ these children both physically and spiritually. After the war, foster parents and some organizations refused to hand the children back over to the Jewish community. Such a fascinating controversy I hope to address in class on Thursday.

I flagged quite a bit in the book — the necessity of false papers and money, for example — besides what I mentioned above and it was interesting to read about how people in different countries reacted to the persecution of the Jews. However, I think I would have enjoyed this book more had I been able to read sections of it over time. But because I have a very busy week ahead I had to read the entire book over the weekend and 512 pages of nonfiction is a lot to read and absorb.

Book Mentioned:

  • Moore, Bob. Survivors: Jewish Self-Help and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied Western Europe. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print. 512 pgs. ISBN: 9780199208234. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Oxford University Press. Retrieved: February 12, 2011.

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