The title characters of filmmaker Michael King’s inspirational documentary, “The Rescuers,” are a dozen people, mostly diplomats, who saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
In many cases, they defied their own government’s specific instructions in order to arrange exit visas for families otherwise headed for extermination. Some of these stories are already reasonably well known.
There was Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish first secretary in Budapest, who mysteriously disappeared after the Soviets drove the Nazis out of Hungary; Carl Lutz, the Swiss vice counsel in Budapest, featured character in the recent film, “Walking With the Enemy”; and Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese consul in Lithuania credited with saving as many as 3,000 people.
Others are less familiar — at least to me — and, in some cases, unexpected. Selahattin Ulkumen, the Muslim Turkish consul in Rhodes, and Angelo Rotta, the Catholic Bishop in Budapest, helped save thousands. None is as surprising as Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a Nazi Party member and a German attache in Copenhagen. He arranged for Sweden to take in the city’s Jews, saving 7,200 lives.
It isn’t all about numbers, however. One of the rescuers was Princess Alice of Greece, great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and grandmother of Prince Charles, who hid a Jewish family in her Athens palace.