Unlikely Heroes


Unlikely Heroes

The Place of Holocaust Rescuers in Research and Teaching

Edited by Ari Kohen and Gerald J. Steinacher

Contemporary Holocaust Studies Series

270 pages
19 photographs, 2 maps, 1 table, index


May 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Classes and books on the Holocaust often center on the experiences of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders, but rescuers also occupy a prominent space in Holocaust courses and literature even though incidents of rescue were relatively few and rescuers constituted less than 1 percent of the population in Nazi-occupied Europe. As inspiring figures and role models, rescuers challenge us to consider how we would act if we found ourselves in similarly perilous situations of grave moral import. Their stories speak to us and move us.

Yet this was not always the case. Seventy years ago these brave men and women, today regarded as the Righteous Among the Nations, went largely unrecognized; indeed, sometimes they were even singled out for abuse from their co-nationals for their selfless actions. Unlikely Heroes traces the evolution of the humanitarian hero, looking at the ways in which historians, politicians, and filmmakers have treated individual rescuers like Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler, as well as the rescue efforts of humanitarian organizations. Contributors in this edited collection also explore classroom possibilities for dealing with the role of rescuers, at both the university and the secondary level.

Author Bio

Ari Kohen is an associate professor of political science and Schlesinger Professor of Social Justice at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of In Defense of Human Rights: A Non-Religious Grounding in a Pluralistic World and Untangling Heroism: Classical Philosophy and the Concept of the Hero. Gerald J. Steinacher is an associate professor of history and Hymen Rosenberg Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust and Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice


“This volume provides an excellent resource for scholars and teachers on a number of important questions about rescuers: not only what kind of people they were and what motivated them but also what the category of ‘rescuer’ includes and how rescuers have been remembered. It offers new insights into well-known cases of rescue and encourages consideration of lesser-known examples. It also provides an excellent set of resources for teachers to reflect on their own practices.”—Dominic Williams, Montague Burton Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Leeds

"The global rise of authoritarianism and the persistence of ethnocentrism, prejudice, and xenophobia in the United States and abroad necessitates a renewed focus, not only on factors associated with evil and genocide, but also on understanding the very rare phenomenon of heroism undertaken by the very few morally courageous individuals under life-threatening conditions. The vital aim of this volume is thus increasing both awareness and the incidence of heroism in the twenty-first century and onward."—Stephanie Fagin-Jones, Heroism Science

Table of Contents

Ari Kohen and Gerald J. Steinacher
Part 1. Research about Rescue
1. Holocaust Rescuers in Historical and Academic Scholarship
Roy G. Koepp
2. The Saved and the Betrayed: Hidden Jews in the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia     
Benjamin Frommer
3. The Final Rescue? Liberation and the Holocaust
Mark Celinscak
4. The War Refugee Board: Formulating Rescue from Washington
Rebecca Erbelding
5. Raoul Wallenberg: The Making of an American Hero
Michael Dick
6. The University in Exile and the Garden of Eden: Alvin Johnson and His Rescue Efforts for European Jews and Intellectuals
Gerald J. Steinacher and Brian Barmettler
Part 2. Teaching about Rescue
7. From Saints to Sinners: Teaching about the Motivations of Rescuers of Jews through Documentary and Feature Films
Lawrence Baron
8. Complicating the Narrative: Oskar Schindler, Schindler’s List, and the Classroom
Mark Gudgel
9. Teaching the Lesson of Moral Courage through Writing
Liz Feldstern and Amanda Ryan
Suggested Further Reading and Films

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