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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 16-Feb-17 14:51:52

Doing the right thing, then and now

During World War Two, the heroic acts of a handful of men and women saved the lives of many of author Georgia Hunter's Jewish family members. Seventy years later, their bravery is still inspiring her to do the right thing, and help others in need.

Georgia Hunter

Doing the right thing, then and now

Posted on: Thu 16-Feb-17 14:51:52

(13 comments )

Lead photo

Georgia Hunter

When I was fifteen years old, I discovered that I came from a family of Holocaust survivors. I learned that my grandfather, Eddy Courts as I knew him, was born a Jew in a town in central Poland I’d never heard of, and that for the first thirty-two years of his life, he went by Addy Kurc.

Years later, I'd set off on a mission to unearth and record my grandfather's story. It took nearly a decade, but as I finally understood how, exactly, he and his parents and siblings had managed to survive the Holocaust, I began obsessively imagining myself in my relatives' shoes...what must it have felt like, I wondered, to be Jewish and on the run during the Second World War? Would I have found a way to defy the odds, as they had? Would I have had the strength to carry on day after unforgiving day?

The Kurc family scattered at the start of the war, sometimes across continents; many went for years not knowing if they would ever see each other again. They did everything in their power to track each other down, but mostly they tried to stay alive, which required an endless store of courage, ingenuity, and luck, and which also meant turning to strangers for help: to the ambassador who issued my grandfather an illegal visa to Brazil; to the nun who protected my great-aunt's young daughter by admitting her into her convent; to the Austrian banker who lied about another aunt's religion to save her life, at the risk of his own; to the Polish peasants who kept my great-grandparents in hiding, against the threat of death if caught harboring Jews.

As an American, it's easy to feel at a loss when it comes to the crises unfolding across borders. But then I think of the nuns, the peasants, the businessmen and diplomats who stepped up under no obligation to help my family seventy years ago, who put their lives on the line to save someone else's, and I chide myself for my complacency.


I know little about these people who risked their lives to help my family. Why did they do it? Had a moral boundary been recognised that they couldn't bring themselves to cross? Was it out of pity? Were some desperate for the meager compensation? I'd like to believe that they did it because they knew it was the right thing to do.

Maybe it's the foreboding sense of uncertainty in the current political climate, or maybe it's the countless hours in the last decade I've spent thinking about what it means to be a refugee...whatever the reason, I'm haunted now not only by what the Kurcs endured, but by the fact that around the world today, hundreds of thousands of refugees are, as my family once was, in desperate need of safety, of a place to call home. To whom can they turn for help?

As an American, it's easy to feel at a loss when it comes to the crises unfolding across borders. But then I think of the nuns, the peasants, the businessmen and diplomats who stepped up under no obligation to help my family seventy years ago, who put their lives on the line to save someone else's, and I chide myself for my complacency. And so my resolution for 2017 is to find a way, somehow, to help. To do the right thing.

Georgia's book, We Were the Lucky Ones, is published by Alison & Busby and is available from Amazon now.

By Georgia Hunter

Twitter: @Georgia_Hunter

Rinouchka Thu 16-Feb-17 17:37:56

Moved by this extract from Georgia's Hunter's book, especially as another thread referring to "the wrong kind of refugee" has just reached its 1000th comment.

Doing the right thing means recognising human need and responding to it with compassion but also with pragmatism. The nuns and peasants Georgia refers to did not just sympathise with the plight of the Jews they encountered, they acted with a clear purpose...and they took a risk, knowing full well what the personal dangers were.

It is sad that today, doing the right thing seems to often be interpreted as helping ourselves rather than helping others in need.

rosesarered Thu 16-Feb-17 17:43:35

I think the fact that the other refugee thread reached it's 1000 posts is the reason we have now got a new one, and this new one is much the same as the old one.So, is there really anything new to be said by posters?

TriciaF Thu 16-Feb-17 18:00:02

This is a subject that I've read about a lot, living in France which sadly has a bad reputation for their behaviour towards Jews in WW2. But not always deserved. Many families (especially rural) sheltered Jews throughout the war, in spite of the risk.
Here's an example, recently in our local paper:
www.ladepeche.fr/article/2017/01/16/2497375-les-deux-couples-ont-sauve-des-juifs.html

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:04:09

I presume this one is to carry on from the old one.

www.gransnet.com/forums/blogs/1231651-The-wrong-kind-of-refugee?pg=10

JessM Thu 16-Feb-17 16:05:46

Ankers you know as well as I do that that if immigration stats go up in a particular year it's because the economy needs them. Immigrants to not come her to laze around in a land of milk and honey.
And on the subject of illegal immigrants - really, really no bed of roses being in the UK with no money and no work visa. The only work they would get is from those paying less than minimum wage and breaking the law in other ways. Where are the prosecutions for paying less than the minimum wage and for modern slavery?
Bit thin on the ground I hear.
So either it's not happening or the government is washing its hands of a problem.
And how would you change the immigration laws Ankers to carefully control immigration to the level the economy needs - no more and no less?

Ana Thu 16-Feb-17 18:04:22

Unfortunately, we're not all fluent French speakers/readers TriciaF!

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:08:24

Ankers you know as well as I do that that if immigration stats go up in a particular year it's because the economy needs them. Immigrants to not come her to laze around in a land of milk and honey.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-april-to-june-2016/study

Not had time to read this in detail yet, but will soon.

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:11:13

And on the subject of illegal immigrants - really, really no bed of roses being in the UK with no money and no work visa. The only work they would get is from those paying less than minimum wage and breaking the law in other ways.

Not necessarily true at all.

Some, and as I said on the other thread regarding one of the local chinese restaurants, they hire illegal immigrants who are relatives.
So they can pay them the going rate for all we know.

There are many examples of legal workers over here, hiring their illegal relatives.

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:13:40

And how would you change the immigration laws Ankers to carefully control immigration to the level the economy needs - no more and no less?

Why do they need changing?

Just let in another 20,000 of the workers that are needed or whatever number it is.
The system worked perfectly well up until about 1995 or 2000 or whenever it was.

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:16:15

I need to read up further on this, but part of the answer to the blog is for genuine refugees to seek asylum in a country.

Ankers Thu 16-Feb-17 18:17:05

Those concerned about the plumber in the last thread. He is related to a friend, so definite comeback if he really messes things up!

Ana Thu 16-Feb-17 18:26:17

You mean he'll get into hot water?

Chewbacca Thu 16-Feb-17 18:26:21

A local restaurant near me has been visited 3 times, in the last 18 months, by Border Security and on each occasion has arrested and removed illegal workers. The owners of the restaurant face fines of £10,000 per illegal worker, if its proven that they failed to take proper measures to ensure that their staff were legally entitled to work here. Considering that the same establishment has now had 5 of their employees removed, within 3 visits, at an overall cost of £50,000 in fines , it would appear to still be more cost effective for them to hire illegal workers than to hire people who have the legitimacy to live and work here. I also know of other restaurants and fast food outlets, in a neighbouring town, that have actually been closed down because they have repeatedly employed illegal workers despite several fines.

annemac101 Mon 20-Feb-17 08:26:19

This book sounds like a good but hard read. How wonderful for Georgia to have researched her family and written a book for future generations. The world has not learnt any lessons from the two world wars and we are still making the same mistakes. Thank goodness for the few brave people who helped Georgia's family.

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