Holocaust Rescues: Countries and Communities That Prominently Resisted Nazi Efforts to Deport Their Jews

From Italy to Denmark to Albania, a look at those countries which helped rescue victims of the Holocaust

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Italy: Despite Rome's alliance with Nazi Germany, the Italian military generally refused to accede to German demands for the deportation of Jews either from Italy itself or from territory it occupied. After the Germans occupied northern and central Italy, in September 1943, they ordered the immediate roundup of the Jews in those areas. To a large extent, the Italian public did not cooperate, nor did Italian police, and in the end, “only” 4,733 Jews, out of about 50,000 in total, were deported to Auschwitz.

Denmark: In late September 1943, a nationwide effort in Denmark results in 7,200 of the country’s approximately 8,000 Jews (and an additional 680 non-Jewish family members) being smuggled out of the country to Sweden, where they were given refuge.

Albania: In the years leading up to World War II, a number of Jews from Germany and Austrian took up refuge in Albania. None of them was deported, neither during Italian, or the subsequent German occupation. Neither were the approximately 200 Albanian Jews. Thus, at the end of the war, there were some 1,800 Jews living in the country. In 1995, Yad Vashem recognized the Republic of Albania as Righteous Among the Nations. On the other hand, some 600 Jews living in territory under Albanian occupation (including Kosovo) were deported to Bergen-Belsen and murdered.

Bulgaria: Although Bulgarian authorities imposed a wide variety of restrictions on the country’s 50,000 Jewish citizens, and also cooperated with the deportation of non-Bulgarian Jews from territories under occupation by Bulgaria (including Macedonia and Thrace), King Boris III successfully avoided deporting a single one of the country’s Jews to the death camps.

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France: Between 1940 and 1944, the residents of this Protestant town in south-central France hid some 5,000 people, more than half of them Jews, from German arrest.

Finland: Between 1939 and 1945, Finland fought in three wars, the first two against Russia, the third against Germany. During the second war, the so-called Continuation War, Finland was actually allied with Germany. Nonetheless, Jewish citizens fought with the army in all three conflicts, and even operated their own field synagogue under the noses of the German allies. Finland did turn over eight Jewish refugees to the Nazis in 1942, out of approximately 500 that passed through the country; later in the war, Germany’s ambassador in Helsinki wrote to Adolf Hitler that it was his impression that Finland would not deport any of its Jewish citizens.

Jacques Chirac lays a wreath at Maison des Roches, Chambon sur Lignon, central France, a town that hid thousands of Jews.Credit: AP

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