The Rescuers

Examine the moral dilemmas faced by five diplomats who, at great personal risk, assisted Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during the Holocaust.

This website is designed to complement the film The Rescuers, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael King. The film excerpts tell the story of the rescuers effectively, while the supplementary content helps students delve more deeply into the historical context and moral dilemmas surrounding their rescue efforts.

The Rescuers, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael King, follows Sir Martin Gilbert, one of the foremost historians on the Holocaust, and Stephanie Nyombayire, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide and anti-genocide activist as they trace the effort of twelve diplomats who served in Europe during the Holocaust and assisted Jews in their attempt to flee Nazi persecution. 

Of the twelve diplomats featured in the film, this guide focuses on five who's stories illuminate the profound moral questions about personal and collective responsibility: Hiram Bingham IV, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, Chiune Sugihara, Selahattin Ülkümen, and Raoul Wallenberg. 

Key questions this guide explores:

  1. Where is the line between duty and conscience? When do ethical considerations trump diplomats' duty to carry out government policies?
  2. How do our religious, ethnic, and national identities shape the way we construct our universe of moral responsibility?
  3. What leads one person and not another to do the right thing, regardless of consequences they may face? 

Meet the Rescuers

Reading
Holocaust

A Rescuer in France: Hiram Bingham IV

Between 1940 and 1941, American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV, stationed in Marseille, France, helped as many as 2,500 Jews escape Nazi persecution by defying United States policies and issuing hundreds of immigration papers.

Reading
Holocaust

A Rescuer in Copenhagen: Georg Duckwitz

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz', a German diplomat stationed in the capital of Copenhagen, alerted both the Jewish community and the Danish underground of the coming roundup. As a result, most of the Danish Jews went into hiding and were transported to Sweden, where they were cared for thanks to Duckwitz’s diplomacy.

Reading
Holocaust

A Rescuer in Lithuania: Chiune Sugihara

Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in the Lithuanian prewar capital of Kaunas (Kovno) in the summer of 1940. In defiance of his superiors, Sugihara decided to provide transit visas to thousands of Jews who had escaped German persecution in Poland. Many of them used this opportunity to flee Europe into safety.

Reading
Holocaust

A Rescuer in Rhodes: Selahattin Ülkümen

Turkish ambassador to Rhodes, Selahattin Ülkümen used a tenuous alliance, knowledge of Turkish law, and his skill at negotiating to protect and ultimately rescue some of the Jews on this small island.

Reading
Holocaust

Rescuers in Hungary: Carl Lutz & Raoul Wallenberg

The incredible story of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz and of Swedish envoy Raoul Wallenberg whose program saved tens of thousands of Jews and showed that a cross-nation collaborative diplomatic effort could be implemented. 

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