On hero­ism, com­plic­ity

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - hen it comes

Wto the amount of let­ters to the ed­i­tor we re­ceive on any given is­sue, there are top­ics that draw a lot of sub­mis­sions over a long pe­riod of time (cough, Brett Ka­vanaugh, cough), ar­ti­cles that re­sult in a brief but vo­lu­mi­nous burst of re­sponses (weekly col­umns, for ex­am­ple), and top­ics that lead to a pro­longed back-and-forth be­tween a hand­ful of read­ers.

I find that the lat­ter cat­e­gory pro­duces some of the most in­ter­est­ing, print-wor­thy let­ters sent to the L.A. Times. The lat­est ex­am­ple is the Sept. 30 op-ed ar­ti­cle on the res­cue of Den­mark’s Jews dur­ing World War II, which prompted a re­sponse from a reader, printed on Oct. 10, who said his father risked his life dur­ing the Nazi occupation of France by hid­ing Jews in his barn. That let­ter moved oth­ers to write.

— Paul Thorn­ton, let­ters ed­i­tor

Bar­bara Gril­let of El Ca­jon thanks re­sisters in ev­ery oc­cu­pied na­tion:

Thank you to reader Robert Gril­let, who wrote of his father’s hero­ism in shel­ter­ing more than 60 peo­ple, in­clud­ing Jews, from the Nazis in France. In ev­ery Nazi-oc­cu­pied coun­try, coura­geous in­di­vid­u­als risked their lives to pro­tect the in­no­cent in de­fi­ance of

their own gov­ern­ments’ pow­er­less­ness in the face of, and even com­plic­ity with, Nazi atroc­i­ties.

They may not have thought of them­selves as heroes, but they were and are.

Eileen Bar­ish ex­plains why Den­mark deser ves spe­cial recog­ni­tion:

Den­mark was the only oc­cu­pied Euro­pean coun­try to save al­most all of its Jewish res­i­dents from the Holo­caust. Af­ter be­ing tipped off by prom­i­nent Nazis about im­mi­nent roundups, re­sisters evac­u­ated the coun­try’s 7,000 Jews to Swe­den by boat, a his­tor­i­cal anom­aly.

They left at night by any means pos­si­ble and fled to the coun­try­side. Mem­bers of the Dan­ish un­der­ground move­ment emerged who could tell the Jews who was to be trusted. There were po­lice of­fi­cers who not only looked the other way when the refugees turned up in groups, but also warned about Nazi check­points. Den­mark was a small county with a big heart.

Al­though the French did try to help the Jews, of the 340,000 Jews liv­ing in France, more than 75,000 were de­ported to death camps. Al­though most de­ported Jews died, the sur­vival rate of the Jewish pop­u­la­tion in France was up to 75%, among the high­est in Europe. But it was nowhere near the scope of the ef­forts of the Danes.

Re­call the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris, which was aided by the French po­lice. This roundup in­cluded more than 4,000 chil­dren. They were held in ex­tremely crowded con­di­tions, al­most with­out food and wa­ter and with no san­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties be­fore be­ing shipped to death camps for their mass mur­der.

Thomas V. Mertens of North Hills praises an Amer­i­can res­cue group:

One group saved more than 1,000 Jewish chil­dren in 1941. It was the Quaker or­ga­ni­za­tion Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee.

I was one of 56 young­sters on the Serpa Pinto, a mer­chant ship from Por­tu­gal that made it to New York on Sept. 26, 1941.

Joel Saget AFP/Getty Im­ages

A VIS­I­TOR touches the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memo­rial in Paris in 2005.

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