Consider how leaders like FDR, clergy members, and ordinary people around the world responded to the news of Kristallnacht (Spanish available).
This website is designed to complement the film The Rescuers, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael King. The Rescuers traces the effort of twelve diplomats who served in Europe during the Holocaust and, at great risk to themselves (and at times their loved ones), assisted Jews in their attempt to flee Nazi persecution. The film follows Sir Martin Gilbert and Stephanie Nyombayire, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide who has become an anti-genocide activist in recent years. Gilbert is an acclaimed and prolific British historian, who is one of the foremost historians on the Holocaust.
According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, in the twentieth century more people have died from genocide and mass murder than from all wars. After each atrocity, men and women in the international community cry “Never again,” but human rights abuses against innocent children, women, and men continue. In his job as a reporter for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has been able to see these human rights abuses firsthand, winning a Pulitzer Prize for bringing attention to the genocide in Darfur. Yet despite the attention Kristof and others have drawn to this humanitarian disaster, the violence continues. Why is this the case?
Looking to history can help us address this question. In the 1940s, Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish resistance, publicized reports about Nazi atrocities to a mostly unbelieving audience. After the war, he spoke of his attempts to alert people to the mass murder of European Jews, explaining, “The tragedy was that these testimonies were not believed. Not because of ill will, but simply because the facts were beyond human imagination.”2During the Holocaust, many people did not intervene to stop the genocide because they were not able to “imagine the unimaginable.” As Professor Larry Langer argues, “Even with the evidence before our eyes, we hesitate to accept the worst.”