10 WWII Heroes: Their Stories, Legacies, & Lessons

“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” — C. S. Lewis

In this series, you will meet:

  • A teenager and her young sister who had 13 Jews in their attic for 2.5 years.
  • An Olympian who survived 47 days on a raft without food or water and a Japanese prison camp, and came to Christ afterwards.
  • Three Geman teenagers who spread illegal pamphlets with the truth about Nazi Germany.
  • A group who saved 700 children – in a concentration camp.
  • A Catholic who attempted to assassinate Hitler – and nearly succeeded.
I believe in teaching the Holocaust through its heroes.
The Holocaust is a tough subject, and it should be. Eleven million people, nearly six million of them Jews, were brutally murdered for no reason. On the other hand, it seems the most necessary topics are the toughest. We must learn from the Holocaust. We cannot ignore it.
Albert Einstein said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” From lots of research, I believe a main factor in the Holocaust was the bystanders; the people who shut their doors and plugged their ears because they wanted to shelter their children or because they were feeling guilty.
Sure, courage isn’t easy. Look at Esther, Daniel, Moses. It took some severe courage for Esther to stand before the King. And Daniel needed courage to say he would pray to no one but his God. But when you have courage, it seems all of the other virtues come naturally. Speaking up is not always the easiest thing to do. But, the wisest decisions are not always the easiest.
A few days ago, for the first time, I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie. The episode was “The Craftsman”. Young Albert started an apprenticeship under an elderly Jewish man, and he is getting teased. Albert’s father gave him (and his sister) some wise words: “If you don’t speak up to people, bigots, then you’re no better than they are. Worse, in fact. Because you know that its wrong and you allow them to think you feel the same things they do.”
The Holocaust did not start with a concentration camp. It started with a brick being thrown into a Jewish store, an attack on a Jewish child. If more people would have stood up when the little things were happening, the big things might not have happened.

We can learn two important things from the Holocaust.

We can learn from the bystanders – and teach our children to fight injustice. Some people think that by being silent, they are staying neutral and aren’t causing any trouble.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said this best, “Silence only helps the oppressor.” The bystanders – who plugged their ears and shut their eyes – did nothing to prevent it from happening. Pretending the Holocaust didn’t exist didn’t prevent it from happening.
We can learn about tolerating others’ beliefs – Respecting and tolerating other people’s beliefs does not mean you have to agree with the beliefs you tolerate. Although I do not understand everything about Jewish culture, I can still respect and love the Jewish culture, despite our different beliefs. Judaism has A LOT to teach and offer. The Jews aren’t “bad” people, their beliefs are simply different than mine. Holocaust survivor Eva Kor said it best – judge based on actions, character and morals rather than race, gender, or religion.

Learning from History: Why I Study World War II and the Holocaust

I first began my Holocaust research with: Where are all the good guys?? Why didn’t anyone help the victims? I study the Holocaust and WWII for two reasons. Reason number one is because I want to learn from history. We NEED to learn from history. I want to be the one helping the victims, even if its just by writing a few papers. I do not want to be a bystander in any which way or form.
Secondly, I want to remember and praise the courageous men and women who stood up to Hitler. They, and the victims, are worth remembering. In the midst cruelty and brutality, it is nice to know there are still good, virtuous people in the world like Moses, Daniel, and Esther. That thought is very comforting. Whether the person threw food to Jewish prisoners, began an anonymous anti-Nazi pamphlet, or hid Jews in their basement – any act of resistance was courageous and worth noting.

I will be doing a series of posts throughout the month of July featuring courageous, inspirational heroes during World War II. 
The heroes I am featuring will be:
  1. Miracles Still Happen: Diet Eman – A young Christian who was in the Resistance, and who met Corrie ten Boom in a concentration camp.
  2. All In His Hands: Louie Zamperini – An Olympian who survived 47 days on an inflated raft without food or water, and survived 2 years as a POW.
  3. The Jar of Life: Irena Sendler – A Catholic social worker who smuggled and rescued 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto; one at a time.
  4. Words, Not Guns: Helmuth Hübener – Mormon teenager who spread anti-Nazi pamphlets with two of his friends
  5. For God and Country: Claus von Stauffenberg – A Nazi officer who plotted to kill Hitler in the (in)famous July 20th plot.
  6. We Will Not Be Silent: Sophie Scholl – A group of young adults who started a resistance and spread anti-Nazi leaflets.
  7. The Power of Forgiveness: Eva Kor – A child Holocaust survivor and Mengele twins who went back to forgive the Nazis for their crimes
  8. A Company of Heroes: Richard Winters – The famous leader of Easy Company (AKA Band of Brothers)
  9. The Mystery Behind the Attic Wall: Stefania Podgorska – The story of a young Catholic teenager who hid 13 Jews in her attic!
  10. Resilience and Rescue: Jack Werber – A Jewish Holocaust survivor who saved the lives of 700 children – while in a concentration camp.
At the beginning of each story I will give a maturity rating from 1-5. 1 means the story is appropriate for younger ages, and 5 means it is appropriate for teens and up. 
Never forget and never again. 

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