Paldiel, Mordecai 1937-
Paldiel, Mordecai 1937-
Born March 10, 1937, in Antwerp, Belgium; son of Shelomo and Hinde (a homemaker) Wajsfeld; married Rachel Mizrahi (a bank employee), 1966; children: Sigalit, Iris, Eli. Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, B.A., 1967; Temple University, M.A., 1979, Ph.D., 1982. Religion: Jewish.
Writer, administrator, educator. Yad Vashem: Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem, Israel, former director of Department for the Righteous, beginning 1982; Yeshiva College, New York, NY, lecturer; Queens College, New York, NY, lecturer; International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, New York, NY, director of special projects, 2008—. Freelance lecturer on the Holocaust. Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Holocaust Studies, Richard Stockton College, NJ, 1991. Military service: U.S. Army and Israel Defense Forces.
The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, Ktav (Jersey City, NJ), 1993.
Whosoever Saves One Life (in Hebrew), Yad Vashem (Jerusalem, Israel), 1993.
Heroes of a Different Kind, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.
Sheltering the Jews: Stories of Holocaust Rescuers, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Saving the Jews: Amazing Stories of Men and Women Who Defied the "Final Solution," Schreiber (Rockville, MD), 2000.
Churches and the Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans, and Reconciliation, Ktav (Jersey City, NJ), 2006.
Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust, Ktav (Jersey City, NJ), 2007.
Also author of Es gab auch Gerechte (in German; title means "There Was Also Justice"). Contributor to periodicals.
Mordecai Paldiel is a Belgian-born authority on rescue during the Holocaust. Paldiel himself, along with his five other family members, fled to France during World War II and were saved by a Catholic priest who successfully smuggled the family into Switzerland. Paldiel went on to earn a B.A. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Temple University, later becoming director of Israel's Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. In 2008 he became director of special projects at New York's International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Paldiel is also the author of numerous books detailing the stories of those who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Among these are The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, Sheltering the Jews: Stories of Holocaust Rescuers, Saving the Jews: Amazing Stories of Men and Women Who Defied the "Final Solution," Churches and the Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans, and Reconciliation, and Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust. Paldiel once commented: "The Holocaust is a watershed event in the history of human evil. It tends to dent our belief in ourselves as caring beings and leaves us in despair about the future of mankind. The story of those who stood up to the Nazis, with weapons of the spirit, by saving Jews from destruction, at the risk of their own lives, is a reminder that man's inhumanity to man can be countered, as it indeed was, by man's care, concern, and love for fellow man. I am committed to driving home that message. Do not forget or trivialize the evil done, but let the goodness have the last word. Do this for the sake of future generations."
Paldiel further told CA: "The Holocaust presents us with man at his worst. At the same time, everywhere in Nazi-dominated Europe, there were instances of persons acting in the best moral sense: risking their lives to save Jews from destruction at the hands of the Nazis.
"Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial, has created a program under which non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust are honored with the title of "Righteous among the Nations." So far, some 17,500 men and women from all European countries have been awarded this title.
"This has inspired my writing—to show, through the example of the Righteous, that man can maintain his humanity and moral stature even under the most trying circumstances. That man has the capacity to choose between right and wrong, and that this is one of the greatest gifts, as well as challenges, offered to man."
In his 1993 work, The Path of the Righteous, Paldiel chronicles the stories some of these Righteous, mostly Christian rescuers during the Holocaust. Franz von Hammerstein, assessing the work in the Ecumenical Review, observed that the author takes a country-by-country approach to his survey: "For each country the historical background, political reasons for the attitude towards the Jewish population, its number and situation are described as a background against which to understand the rescue of Jews." The same reviewer concluded: "This book should be translated into other languages, especially European languages, including German. It is important for religious persons and for everyone who wants to be human, as well as for the education of young people." In his 1996 book, Sheltering the Jews, Paldiel looks at ordinary men and women and sometimes groups who rescued Jews during the Nazi tyranny in Europe between 1939 and 1945. Every chapter opens with a personal statement by a person who was saved, and this is followed by the names and actions of the rescuers. The eighth chapter looks at the moral and ethical significance of these righteous deeds. Christian Century reviewer John S. Reist, Jr., noted: "However bleak and gloomy the record, humanity is also capable of great courage and compassion, as Mordecai Paldiel's book reminds us." Reist went on to term Sheltering the Jews a "scholarly and plangent book [that] moves us into the abyss of hell and then out into hope by counting and accounting for the humanity that these rescuers heroically incarnate." Similarly, writing in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Mary Kelly commented: "None of us can say for sure whether he/she would have been a murderer, a bystander, or a righteous gentile in such a situation, but we can all endeavor to let these stories touch our lives and influence our actions."
A similar title, Saving the Jews, presents forty-seven further tales of Gentiles who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust. Among these Righteous are the American Varian Fry, who helped thousands of French Jews escape with real and forged passports and visas. Another rescuer profiled is a Turkish diplomat in Rhodes who saved fifty Jews by stating that they were of Turkish origin. Booklist contributor George Cohen called this book "a perceptive and moving account of little-known individuals who risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones." The stories of such diplomatic efforts at rescue is enlarged in the 2007 Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust. Among those listed are Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who helped to save numerous Hungarian Jews, and a diplomat and spy who, working at the Japanese embassy in Lithuania, saved thousands of Jews. Cohen concluded that though other diplomats who saved Jews are not as well known, "Paldiel now has rescued them from oblivion."
With Churches and the Holocaust, Paldiel examines the response of Christian churches to the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. The author focuses primarily on the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches and how over 300 of their clerics and ministers extended aid to Jews during the Holocaust. Cohen, again writing in Booklist, found this a "searing work of scholarship."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2000, George Cohen, review of Saving the Jews: Amazing Stories of Men and Women Who Defied the "Final Solution," p. 608; March 15, 2006, George Cohen, review of Churches and the Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans, and Reconciliation, p. 21; December 15, 2006, George Cohen, review of Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust, p. 15.
Bookwatch, July 1, 2006, review of Churches and the Holocaust.
California Bookwatch, March 1, 2007, Diane C. Donovan, review of Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust.
Christian Century, March 12, 1997, John S. Reist, review of Sheltering the Jews: Stories of Holocaust Rescuers, p. 275.
Ecumenical Review, April 1, 1995, Franz von Hammerstein, review of The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, p. 234.
Internet Bookwatch, November 1, 2006, review of Churches and the Holocaust.
Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2007, Jeff Kleiman, review of Churches and the Holocaust, p. 144.
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, September 22, 1997, Mary Kelly, review of Sheltering the Jews, p. 612.
Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006, review of Churches and the Holocaust; May 1, 2007, review of Diplomat Heroes of the Holocaust.
International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Web site,http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/ (March 27, 2008), "Mordecai Paldiel Joins the IRWF."
Jewish Foundation for the Righteous Web site,http://www.jfr.org/ (June 15, 2008), "Mordecai Paldiel."