The remarkable story of how a consul and his allies helped save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in one of the greatest rescue operations of the twentieth century.
In May 1940, desperate Jewish refugees in Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania, faced annihilation in the Holocaust - until an ordinary Dutch man became their saviour.
Over a period of ten feverish days, Jan Zwartendijk, the newly appointed Dutch consul, wrote thousands of visas that would ostensibly allow Jews to travel to the Dutch colony of Curacao on the other side of the world. With the help of Chiune Sugihara, the consul for Japan, while taking great personal and professional risks, Zwartendijk enabled up to 10,000 men, women, and children to escape the country on the Trans-Siberian Express, through Soviet Russia to Japan and then on to China, saving them from the Nazis and the concentration camps.
Most of the Jews whom Zwartendijk helped escape survived the war, and they and their descendants settled in America, Canada, Australia, and other countries. Zwartendijk and Sugihara were true heroes, and yet they were both shunned by their own countries after the war, and their courageous, unstinting actions have remained relatively unknown.
In The Just, renowned Dutch author Jan Brokken wrests this heroic story from oblivion and traces the journeys of a number of the rescued Jews. This epic narrative shows how, even in life-threatening circumstances, some people make the just choice at the right time. It is a lesson in character and courage.
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Number of pages: 496
Dimensions: 234 x 153 x 38 mm
'If I had known Jan Zwartendijk's story before, I would have had filmed that.'-- Steven Spielberg
'Brokken's The Just is a monumental reconstruction of this forgotten history. I say monumental due to the thoroughness and breadth of Brokken's work.'* NRC Handelblad *
'He [Zwartendijk] filled desperate lives with hope during a period of great darkness, and his actions will remain a beacon of decency and righteousness for generations to come.'-- Bill Clinton
'The Just is a riveting epic, a masterful interweaving of many threads and many journeys, written with consummate skill, clarity, and acute insight into human nature. Brokken restores to history, and to memory, acts of profound goodness and courage performed by individuals who responded to the frantic knock on the door by displaced people whose lives were in great peril. It will inspire you.'-- Arnold Zable, author of Cafe Scheherazade
'Jan Brokken has built a monument to Jan Zwartendijk ... He makes time fan out not in length but in breadth, and does so cleverly, with dozens of characters whose lives interconnect.'* De Volkskrant *
'According to Geert Mak, Jan Brokken is one of the greatest Dutch writers. That is no exaggeration. Throughout his writing career, Brokken has shown that he is a masterful storyteller. Moreover, he is endowed with the rare talent to extract a profoundly human story from the most wide-ranging subjects. He is also credited with the 'invention' of a new genre in Dutch literature, a mixture of spirited travelogue, imagination and documentary expertise.'* De Morgen *
'Gripping.'* Jewish News *
'It's inspiring and beautifully written.'-- Mark Rubbo * Readings *
'At the outbreak of World War II, Jan Zwartendijk was working for Dutch radio giant Philips in Lithuania ... He found a neat way of issuing visas to the Dutch territory of Curacao, validated by the Japanese consul, which Jewish refugees used to escape through the Soviet Union and Japan. Writer Jan Brokken meticulously tracked down the survivors' children and grandchildren, to tell the whole story and do justice to Zwartendijk. The unsung Dutch hero died without ever knowing how many lives he had saved. Brokken shows it was in the thousands.' FOUR STARS-- Robyn Douglass * SA Weekend *
'A tale that is so remarkable as to be almost unbelievable. That every word is true and that the story is little known even today makes it a book that needs to be read ... It is a painstaking reconstruction of a story that should not have been forgotten and that, thanks to Brokken's sensitivity and laser-focused attention to detail, can now be told again.'* History of War *
'An uplifting tale of bravery in the face of fast-changing circumstances.'-- Family Tree
'Brokken traces the journeys of a a number of rescued Jews in an epic narrative that sheds light on the courageous efforts of Zwartendijk, whose actions have remained relatively unknown his own country and around the world.'* Australian Jewish News *
'Stories of extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism continue to come out of WWII, and Dutch author Brokken's recently translated work is no exception. His extensive research and interviews form the story of Jan Zwartendijk ... Along with the Japanese consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, they were able to save as many as 10,000 Jewish families (possibly more). They could have both been seriously punished or killed if their superiors or the invading Russians or, later, Nazis discovered their deeds ... Weaving their stories, along with those of Jewish families rescued through the use of these visas, is remarkable for both the storytelling and the depth of research the author has undertaken to bring it to a wider audience.'-- Lucy Roehrig * Booklist *
'The Just documents a rescue operation to save Jews from the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania ... Deep dives into archives, and documented encounters with people who were involved in the operation, contribute to a strong narrative about ordinary people performing extraordinary deeds at great risk to their personal safety. The lives of some of the people who were saved are chronicled, as are the struggles of Zwartendijk's family and friends to have him officially recognised for his work on behalf of Jewish people, an experience of which he was robbed during his own lifetime. In telling the life story of Jan Zwartendijk, The Just adds one more piece to the memory of the Holocaust.'* Foreword Reviews, starred review *
'The story of a Dutch businessman who helped Polish and Lithuanian Jews escape the Holocaust ... After getting their Dutch papers, [emigrating Jews] required a visa from the Japanese ambassador, Chiune Sugihara, who also proved willing to cooperate. Through the agency of these two men, several thousand Jews, perhaps as many as 10,000 were able to survive the Holocaust. Dutch writer Brokken traces the stories of Zwartendijk, Sugihara, and a number of those they aided, along with several other Dutch diplomats who added their help as the Jewish refugees continued their travels. The author has interviewed surviving members of Zwartendijk's family and some of those he helped, and he has sifted through government documents in several countries to compile a complete picture of how these few men made a difference in a time when thousands of lives were in the balance. Brokken brings these largely unknown men to vivid life, and few readers will come away from the book untouched by their stories. A deeply moving account of a few brave men who worked against the Nazi horror in the early days of World War II.'* Kirkus Reviews, starred review *
'Brokken provides an inspirational and richly detailed look at bureaucratic efforts to help Jews escape Europe in the early years of WWII ... Evocative portraits of his protagonists' family lives deepen Brokken's depictions of their hazardous actions. Readers will take heart from these obscure yet consequential acts of courage.'* Publishers Weekly *
Praise for Jan Brokken:
'In Jan Brokken's hands, the combination of research, imagination, observation and involvement always changes into gold. When it comes to narrative nonfiction, he is one of the best writers in the Dutch language.'* De Scriptor *
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