Zero hour of the Holocaust

A journalistic chronicle says that on January 30, l933, Adolf Hitler, Austrian, army colonel in World War I, one without a known profession except as political agitator, rose to the pinnacle of power in Germany.

Lost in the illusion that they themselves would be the true power behind the scenes, a conservative political machine, encouraged Hitler´s candidacy, persuading the indecisive President Paul von Hindenburg to nominate the ´´bohemian´´ colonel as Chancellor.

Already installed in power, Hitler surpassed them in quickness and capability. He not only suppressed any participation of importance by the conservatives, but by July l933 had also abolished unions, had eliminated the communists, social democrats, and Jews from any role in political life. At the same time., he began to deport his enemies to concentration camps. Following von Hindenburg’s death, Hitler obtained maximum power through a plebiscite, giving himself the positions of President and Chancellor of the Reich.

January 30 is also the beginning of one of the most tragic chapters in history that corresponds to the wholesale extermination of a people known as the Holocaust or Shoa.

The stories and accounts of the Holocaust are typically characterized by focusing, justifiably so, on the millions of slaughtered in cold blood by the Nazis. Nevertheless, it is also indispensable to look on the bright side of this incommensurable tragedy, if one can use this term, on the heroic gestures of thousands of rescuers, as well as on the luck and histories of lives of those who, thanks to the solidarity and courage of others, were able to elude certain death.

Among the principle stories which stand out are those of the diplomats Raoul Wallenberg (Sweden), Aristides de Sousa Mendes (Portugal), and Monsignor Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), among many others.

Of those in a secondary position, there is little that we know of them, inasmuch as their stories are used to being hidden so much behind the victims of genocide as of the heroic actions —and in some cases, even incredible ones— of the rescuers. But if there is something we really do know, it is that with the passing of time, the lives saved provoked the happy multiplication of their lineage. Some estimates indicate that the l200 people rescued by Oskar Schindler permitted more than 6000 persons to be alive in the mid l990′s.

The solidarity and courage of the rescuers exemplify the true meaning of the sanctity of life, as written not only in Judaism, but also in Christianity. In the reflection that beams light from the lives rescued, we undoubtedly see the torn reality of the opposite image — murder, the interruption of a future, and of all the possible futures that one has a right to hope for, the quashing of all potential, the rule of destruction for destruction’s sake.

The Wallenberg Foundation renders a tribute to all those who risked their own lives, and prevented many more from being taken by those who only relate to the language of death.