The Courage to Care: What motivated Holocaust rescuers?

In 1985, a half-hour documentary directed by Robert H. Gardner titled The Courage to Care was released. The short film featured interviews with Holocaust rescuers and commentary from Eli Wiesel. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, this now largely forgotten gem asked a simple question: Why did those who sought to save their Jewish neighbors act when so many did not?

The Courage to Care contains some extraordinary stories. I had heard of Irene Opdyke, and wrote about her story after interviewing her daughter some years ago–the film leaves out the most horrifying aspects of her experience. I’ve also had the opportunity to tell the story of Le Chambon, the French Huguenot village responsible for saving approximately 5,000 Jews–the widow and daughter of the pastor who led the rescue effort are featured (Magda Trocme died in 1996; Nelly, the daughter, is still alive and I spoke with her recently.)

I had not, however, heard the story of Marion Pritchard, a Dutch social worker. Pritchard helped save 150 Dutch Jews and was declared Righteous Among the Nations in 1981. In 1942, she was hiding several Jews–including three children–in a friend’s house in Huizen. The house was raided by Germans and a Dutch collaborator, but the Jews were safely hidden. The collaborator, however, had a trick up his sleeve–he would suddenly reappear a half hour later when anyone hiding would likely think it was safe to come out.

He returned, found the Jews, and was shot dead by Pritchard, who had been lent a revolver by a friend and felt she had no choice. The collaborator was much despised for his betrayals, and the local undertaker proved very helpful. The corpse was hidden in the same coffin as another man and secretly buried, and until the end of the war, nobody found out what had happened to him. Pritchard, who passed away in 2016, said she lived with the choice every day–but would do it again to save the children if she had to.

It is a powerful little film, and it was recently made available on YouTube. Give it a watch:



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