Just outside the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem is a special garden dedicated to the Righteous Among Nations. Here in this simple grove are trees planted as memorials to Gentiles who helped Jews escape death from the Nazis in the second world war. Last week, I spent time reflecting on some of the names placed at the base of each trunk as I walked in the vast garden. These heroes came from mainly from Europe. Numbered among them were Germans, Austrians, Dutch, French, Belgians, Danes, Czechs and many others who at great risk to their lives went out on a limb to help God’s people.
Most well known is of course Oskar Schindler, the German entrepreneur who helped twelve hundred Jews escape death by employing them in his factories. Lesser known is Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved a hundred thousand Jews in Hungary. There was Corrie ten Boom whose family paid with their lives in hiding Jews in their house in Amsterdam. Equally heroic was Nicolas Winton who quietly rescued nearly nine hundred Jewish children from Czechoslovakia before the Nazis invaded.
But I had come to Jerusalem to search for two Asian giants: Chinue Sugihara and Ho Feng Shan. Sugihara was a Japanese consul who provided passage for thousands of Jews to flee Latvia before the Nazis arrived. Against orders from Tokyo, he continued to issue visas, stamping the passports of desperate Jews at the railway station even as he boarded the train home to be dismissed. His tree today reaches to the skies. At its base are dried flowers. The gardener tells me Asians visit from all over the world.
Ho Feng Shan was a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who risked his career to issue four thousand visas for Jews to escape to Shanghai. There they took refuge until the end of the war and a Jewish museum there commemorates his deeds. I visited it earlier last year. Today, in Jerusalem, I found his simple plaque in the garden and realized that no one is ever born a hero; only men and women who stepped out and did what was right in God’s sight. God is still raising such people today. Unknown, unsung heroes!
2017 YEAR OF OVERFLOWING LIFE
Ps Dr Philip Lyn