A Jew passing as a Christian in occupied Poland during WWII, Oswald Rufeisen worked as translator and personal secretary to a Nazi commander of the German police, repeatedly risking his life to save hundreds from the Nazis. A relatively unknown Jewish hero and rescuer at the magnitude of Oskar Schindler, Rufeisen's life and role during the ...
A Jew passing as a Christian in occupied Poland during WWII, Oswald Rufeisen worked as translator and personal secretary to a Nazi commander of the German police, repeatedly risking his life to save hundreds from the Nazis. A relatively unknown Jewish hero and rescuer at the magnitude of Oskar Schindler, Rufeisen's life and role during the Holocaust is perhaps even more riveting and complex than the man memorialized by Stephen Spielberg in Schindler's List. Only seventeen years old when WWII began, Rufeisen joined the exodus of Poles who fled the approaching German army. Bright and talented, Rufeisen used his ability to speak fluent German to pass as half German and half Polish in Mir, where he came to serve the German commander in charge of the gendarmerie. As he carried out his duties - reading death sentences to prisoners, swearing in new police officers before a portrait of Hitler - he earned the trust and affection of the German commander, yet lived in constant fear of discovery. He used his position to pass secret information to Jews and Christians about impending "Aktionen" and to sabotage Nazi plans. Most notably, he thwarted the annihilation of the Mir ghetto by arming hundreds of Jews and organizing their escape, and saved an entire Belorussian village from destruction. Eventually discovered and denounced, Rufeisen escaped and found shelter in a convent, where he converted to Catholicism. Though a pacifist, he spent the rest of the war fighting in a Russian partisan unit, similar to the Bielski unit of Tec's Defiance. After the war, Father Daniel (as he came to be known) became a priest and a Carmelite monk. Identifying himself as a Christian Jew and an ardent Zionist, he moved to Israel, where he challenged the Law of Return in a case that reached the High Court and attracted international attention. In the Lion's Den, from author Nechama Tec of Defiance and several other astonishing accounts of Jewish survival and rescue during the Holocaust, offers a stirring portrait of a Jewish rescuer during the Holocaust and its aftermath, illuminating the intricate connections between good and evil, cruelty and compassion, and Judaism and Christianity.
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Publishers Weekly, 1989-12-28 Rufeisen's story is extraordinary, especially as recreated by Tec ( Dry Tears ). A Polish Jew imprisoned by the Nazis at age 18, he escaped and passed as a Catholic. Wearing a Nazi uniform as assistant to the German police chief in the Russian town of Mir, he aided Jews and non-Jews in evading the captors. He warned Mir's ghetto of its impending liquidation, gave its residents arms and helped 300 Jews escape. His deception discovered, Rufeisen fled to a convent and converted to Christianity; in 1943 he joined a Russian partisan brigade. After the war, he became a Carmelite monk, later a secular priest. Emigrating to Israel in 1962, Rufeisen, as Father Daniel, now leads the Jewish Christian Church. (Feb.)
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