A righteous man among the nations

It was just a man and he was running out of time: he had 8 months and 32 weeks only. Less than pregnancy time. Nevertheless, in ”only” those 8 months from May 1944 to January 1945 Friedrich Born managed to save ”only” 15,000 souls in the European city of Budapest.

The arithmetic proportion says that Born’s saving force (15,000 people saved in 8 months) was equivalent to 0,0024% of the Third Reich’s murder force (6,000,000 people murdered in 72 months).

Born was just a diplomatic in a humanitarian organization. He didn’t have great armies, soldiers, weapons, planes, tanks, propaganda facilities or money as his opponent did in order to carry on his mission. Born was ”just” a man, the nazis were an army of millions. But Born had on his side the unexplainable human need of saving.

Psychologists have tried in several ways to understand which is the origin and how does this unstoppable spasm that overcomes a person and takes him/her to ”save” another. Some talk about the ”flat expression” that appears in the rescuer when he/she is asked: ”Why have you done that? Why do you put yourself in risk for that person you don’t know, if you don’t even know if he/she would do the same thing for you?”. The ”cow expression” is what generally appears in the rescuer’s face: ”But… how wouldn’t I?”, is the typical answer.

Guided, urged, obliged by that impulse, Born, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Budapest, dedicated all his resources urged by a command coming from the deepest part of his humanity. He made thousands of Red Cross protection letters for Budapest’s Jewish people. With them, he got thousands out of the deportation camps and of the death marches in Budapest and its surroundings. He also managed to get work papers for other 4,000 Jewish, preventing their deportation. Many times he did this by risking his life and his job.

Under the protection of the impartial and neutral Red Cross emblem, he protected over 60 Jewish institutions and lodged more than 7,000 children and orphans. He knew his enemies’ weaknesses and use them in his favor: the nazis wanted to be in good terms with the neutral nations. Born worked together with the diplomatic representations of the neutral nations and settled thousands of houses protected by the Red Cross. In this way he achieved his task: to rescue between 11,000 to 15,000 Jewish in Budapest in only 8 months.

Here is where arithmetics doesn’t work out: Born was exponentially weaker than his opponent, but he succeeded and they failed: ”Who saves one man saves the entire universe” says the Talmud.

The last question is inevitable: Does this mean that one’s will can confront million’s will and succeed? Or, in other words: can only one person guided by the most basic human impulse -to protect life- go against millions decided to do exactly the contrary and yet succeed?

If there is any doubt on how the saving work of Friedrich Born clears out that question, there are the words of Baruch Sharoni, a Yad Vashem representative, when declaring Born a ”Righteous among the Nations”:

”Not everything was barbarism at that time. There were noble and exceptional people who risked their lives and their family’s safety to help save others. Today, when assisting to the inauguration ceremony of this monument dedicated to the ”Righteous Among the Nations” we can say that there are many others saviors whose names are still unknown and probably will ever be. The saviors give us hope in humanity.”

Translation: Soledad Castro Virasoro