AVENUE OF THE RIGHTEOUS by Peter Hellman

AVENUE OF THE RIGHTEOUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Jerusalem's Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles is lined with trees planted in honor of Gentiles who helped Jews escape death at Nazi hands. ""Here was a subject""--writes journalist Peter Hellman--""with the big themes--decency in the face of evil, courage in the face of indifference or cowardliness, unrelenting and fearless love."" Yet his accounts of four of those honored--based on extensive interviews--is in no way exploitative. And each of the stories holds interest. Chic, independent Henrietta Chaumet, mistress of a prominent Belgian physician, adopted three-and-a-half-year-old Raffi Lipski as her ""nephew,"" changed his name to Nick Loubet, and moved with him to a small village where he would not be recognized. (He accepted his role, except with his Teddy bear--to whom he confided that his name was not really Nick Loubet.) After the war, the Lipskis--hidden the while in their former charwoman's attic--arranged with Mme. Chaumet to visit Raffi on weekends; then, when he had come to know and love them again, the adults changed roles--but Raffi's ""aunt"" remained part of his family until her death. Sietske Postma took Aryan-looking Dutch Jew Noortje Heght into her home as her ""cousin,"" Franciska Slujk, and the two enjoyed a happy, laughing comradeship. But Noortje, hostile to Judaism before the war, reacted to two years of attending church by identifying strongly as a Jew. She ultimately emigrated to Israel. Raoul Laporterie provided identification and ration cards and the precious Ausweis permit for hundreds of Jews so that they could pass from occupied to free France. Unlike many passeurs, however, he refused to be paid, and personally drove his clients across the border. Finally and most affectingly, we meet Leokadia Jaromirska. A near-destitute Polish woman whose husband had been taken to Auschwitz for reading an illegal newspaper, she found a nine-month-old Jewish girl at the edge of a forest and devotedly raised the child as her own daughter--only to lose her when, after five years, the child's father reappeared, bent on reclaiming her and taking her to Israel. Though Leokadia corresponded with her ""daughter,"" she never recovered from her loss. Hellman wisely makes no attempt to draw conclusions from these four cases; with respect for his subjects, he allows their stories to speak for themselves.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum