Offering a dissenting view of the much-acclaimed film Schindler's List, Michael Andre Bernstein notes that in his local video store, "there is now a shelf of films about both the Holocaust in particular and World War II in general. Its label reads, simply: 'Videos in the Category of Schindler's List' " (The American Scholar, August 1994).

For better or worse, it is undeniable that Steven Spielberg's film has shaped the image of the Holocaust in the minds of millions of Americans. And in its depiction of the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jewish people, Schindler's List has drawn attention to a group whose role in these terrible events should not be forgotten: the rescuers, those who risked their own lives to save Jews.

Most discussions of the Holocaust speak of two groups of people: Nazi perpetrators and Jewish (and other) victims. But the perpetrators and their intended victims were not, in fact, the only people on the scene during the Holocaust. Three main groups actually can be identified: killers, victims, and bystanders, a small but significant number of whom became rescuers.

Think about it in terms of the following numbers: The Holocaust was carried out by a relatively small number of German officials, in the thousands. Their task was to find and kill as many of the Jews in Europe as they could, a number they estimated at 11 million (it was actually closer to 9 million). These Jews were scattered in some two-dozen European nations, with a total population exceeding 300 million. Thus the Holocaust was a triangular affair involving several thousand Germans trying to find and kill several million Jews dispersed among approximately 300 million non-Jews. More than 90 percent of these non-Jews would have described themselves ...

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