[November 6, 2019] Forty descendants of an Israeli group of siblings hugged an elderly Greek woman. As a teenager, this tiny Greek lady hid, fed, and protected Israelis more than 75 years ago and risking everything to save her neighbors from death at the hands of the Nazis. Melpomeni Dina is one of only a few recognized among the Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s highest honor to those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
I had never heard of this honor before I saw an article in The Times of Israel (see link here), just a few days ago. It intrigued me. I often write of courage and the many shapes it comes in. A common thought most folks have is about our impotence to make a difference in the world. We often believe only the very smart, strongest, or luckiest among us will ever have the chance to make a difference. This is, of course, not true.
Melpomeni Dina was a small teenage girl who stood up to that Nazi death machine. I believe it is important to honor her and the many others who bravely saved thousands from certain death. Rarely are we witness to those of such solid character. I’m not so sure that the majority of us would have done what she did for her neighbors.
The most famous case of non-Jews saving Jews during World War II is Oskar Schindler, whose efforts to save more than 1,000 Jews was documented in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie “Schindler’s List.” Also famous is Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved about 20,000 Jews before mysteriously disappearing.
There is a special committee, chaired by a retired Supreme Court Justice, is responsible for vetting every case of “Righteous Among the Nations,” before awarding the title.1 Between 400 and 500 are typically recognized a year, even for those awarded posthumously.
For a related article that I published back in July of this year, see my post titled “Walking with a Holocaust Survivor.” A link to the article is here.