“When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death – that is heroism.”
Second World War - It is but normal that in dire need, there are always people who rise up above the rest to give more to meet that need. This was what happened during World War II. Below are some of the 25 men and women who showed acts fit to be classified as acts of heroism.
These people are not the only heroes of WWII, though. There are those who did great deeds that went relatively unknown down history. To the people on the list below and to those who acted bravely unknowingly in these times, kudos!
25. Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz
Mr. Duckwitz was a member of the German forces during WWII but he chose to save Jews instead of sending to concentration camps to be gassed. A German attache, he warned Danish Jews about their coming deportation in 1943. In fact, he worked with politician Hans Hedtoft and had a secret connection with the Danish resistance to allow thousands of Danish Jews to escape from the hands of the Germans. In the end, about 95% of the Jewish population in Denmark was saved with him taking all the blame as a failure in his part.
24. Raoul Wallenberg
First and foremost a Swedish businessman, Wallenberg was recruited by the US War Refugee Board in to travel to Hungary with a status of a diplomat in June 1944. Though he was a very inexperienced diplomat, he managed to rise up and lead one of the most broad and successful Jewish rescue operations during the Holocaust. Over a hundred thousand Jews in Hungary owe their lives to him and his network of friends.
23. Giorgio Perlasca
A food purchasing manager for the Italian Army in during WWII, Giorgio was put into a position where he had to pretend he was the substitute for the Spanish ambassador in Budapest. When the ambassador was asked to leave the country, he again took to his impersonating talents – this time, as a Spanish consul. he then proceeded to naturalize thousands of Hungarian Jews into Spanish citizens through the Rivera Law, thus, saving them from deportation and harm. It was not until many years after the war that Giorgio’s story became known to the world. It seemed that after he returned to Italy, he never spoke about what he did back in Hungary even to his family. Fortunately, some Hungarian girls went on a quest to find the Spanish consul who saved them.
22. Angel Sanz-Briz
A real Spanish diplomat, he was the “partner in crime” of Giorgio Perlasca with both men saving 5,200 Hungarian Jews between April 1944 and January 1945 when Russian liberators have arrived in Hungary. Sanz-Briz and Perlasca were also part of the network of western diplomats in contact with Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish consul who set up the group to save Hungarian Jews from being sent into German concentration camps.
21. Coronel Jose Arturo Castellanos Contreras
A Salvadorian army colonel, Contreras was assigned as a diplomat in Geneva, Switzerland during the Second World War. In partnership with Gyorgi Mandl, a Jewish-Hungarian businessman, the colonel was able to save about 40,000 Jews and Central Europeans from the harsh Nazi by giving them fake Salvadorian visas.
20. Charles Joseph Coward
Coward, though bearer of such surname, was no weakling during WWII. As a matter of fact, he was a master of escape from German prisons with seven prison breaks to his name, one which managed to land him an Iron Cross. He also caused trouble while in German concentration camps by organizing sabotage while spying on Nazi troops working in these places. He gathered his reports and witnessed for the Nuremberg and IG Farben Trials and even helped about 400 Jewish laborers in Nazi camps to escape – a difficult feat.
19. Oskar Schindler
Thanks to a Steven Spielberg biopic, the world knows the deeds of German businessman Oskar Schindler. Schindler was a German spy and a Nazi Party member yet he spent his fortunes saving 1,200 Jews during WWII by employing them in his enamelware and ammunition factories. His works is immortalized in the Spielberg film Schindler’s List which premiered in 1993.
18. Abdol Hossein Sardari
Known as the Schindler of Iran, Iranian diplomat Sardari was in-charge of Iranian Consular office in 1941 when war broke out. He argued with Nazi generals and troops to save Iranian Jews which he did so successfully. In the end, he even managed to issue Iranian passports to non-Iranian Jews to save them.
17. Chiune Sugihara
A Japanese diplomat who served in Lithuania, Sugihara risked his life and that of his family when he went against the decree of the Japanese Empire and saved Jews by issuing them handwritten visas. It was even said he wrote and threw visas out of the window when he traveled through train. Because of his selflessness, he was able to save 6,000 Jews. He and his wife Yikiko were honored Righteous Gentiles.
16. John Rabe
German business John Rabe was in China at the time of WWII. He was among the few foreigners who stayed in nanking, then the capital of China, and established the Nanking Safety Zone where he was able to save 200,000 people from mindless slaughter by the Japanese army. He was able to stand ground against them using his influence as a Nazi Party member.
15. Monsignor Hugh O’flaherty
An Irish Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor O’flaherty was known as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican as he was really good in evading the traps set by the Gestapo and its sister organization, the Sicherheitsdienst. he was also responsible for saving about 6,500 Jews and Allied Troops during the war.
14. Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches
A Portuguese diplomat, Abranches defied his government’s orders and issued Portuguese visas free of charge to over 30,000 refugees, 12,000 of which are Jews. because of his actions, he was exiled and died in poverty. His name may be the longest in this list of WWII unknown heroes but his actions merit to be remembered.