Social Media Campaign Pays Tribute to Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews in the Holocaust

International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place on Thursday

Irene Gut Opdyke
Irene Gut Opdyke. Photo: Kari Rene Hall/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany has launched a new social media campaign to shine a light on the non-Jews who placed their lives on the line to save Jewish families during the Holocaust.

The organization's #DontBeABystander campaign aims to pay tribute to the "Righteous Among the Nations," an honorific given to non-Jewish individuals who put themselves in danger to protect Jews from the Nazi regime.

"The Jewish people owe a debt of gratitude to their Righteous rescuers," Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, said in a statement about the campaign, which was launched in a partnership with Israel's Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

"For some Jewish families at their most desperate hour, their saviors were guided by conscience and moral imperative, even above their own safety," he explained.

A series of videos and articles published on the #DontBeABystander website to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday features the stories of a select group of heroes and those who were saved by them.

One of the incredible stories featured for the campaign is of Irene Gut Opdyke, a Polish woman who was training to become a nurse at the onset of World War II.

When the German army invaded the country, Opdyke was sexually assaulted by Russian soldiers and "then transported to a Russian hospital where she fled another sexual assault," her bio states. She'd survive the war by taking on various false identities.

While pretending to be of German descent, Opdyke later reunited with her family in Poland, which was then controlled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the campaign's website explains.

Opdyke was put to work in a munitions factory and later transferred to the villa of a German official. During her time there, she witnessed Jewish persecution at a nearby ghetto and risked her life by leaving food near the area for its residents.

Opdyke later became close to 12 Jewish people who were assigned to work at a Gestapo laundry room, and she again put herself in danger by smuggling them into the villa's basement once discovering the German plan to transport the area's Jews to concentration camps and "wipe out" the nearby ghetto.

Roman Haller
Roman Haller as a child with his parents. Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center

"She did this with the explicit knowledge that anyone caught helping Jews would be put to death immediately," explained a page on the #DontBeABystander website.

Opdyke managed to keep them safe until the end of the war, but also endured a forced sexual relationship with an older German major who discovered what she was doing.

Two of the people Opdyke saved were Lazar and Ida Haller, who were expecting a baby during their escape from German forces. Their child, Roman Haller, was born in May 1944 and shared his parents' story in a video published by the Claims Conference.

"What I would like to do is to encourage people, especially young, not to look away, to be brave, to stand up for humanity," he said in a message.

RELATED VIDEO: Woman Reunites with Holocaust Survivors She Helped Save

Those interested in learning more about the non-Jewish heroes of the Holocaust can visit the #DontBeABystander website or search the hashtag on social media.

"It is our duty not only to honor the rescuers for their refusal to be bystanders," Taylor said of the importance of the campaign, "but also to share their heroic endeavors as a counterbalance to humanity's darkness and indifference during the Holocaust."

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