By Ramona du Houx
Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. Many of the same elements that led to the Holocaust survive today. Maine author, Neil Rolde, has dedicated himself to broadening our awareness of this era. His histories highlight the degree to which the U.S. helped save Jews during the war and what that required.
The War Refugee Board saved over 200,000 lives, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive written history about the extraordinary work that the Board did—until now.
Neil’s More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, The Tempestuous Story of the War Refugee Board is the definitive history of this heroic organization.
“The War Refugee Board’s feat of saving some 200,000 targeted innocents is surely worthy of respect. I’m proud to have told the saga of the War Refugee Board in its detailed entirety, in these two volumes,” said author Neil Rolde.
A new documentary by Ken Burns, The Sharps’ War, is the story of how a Unitarian minister and his wife risked their lives to save an estimated 125 Jews, during the height of WWII. Burns said that their story needed to be told.
While researching, Rolde found a treasure trove of stories where people accomplished extraordinary things to save Jewish refugees but their actions were rarely attributed to the work of the War Refugee Board.
For example, Raoul Wallenberg, a heroic Swede who saved at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews is known. “But not many people know that the War Refugee Board had sent Wallenberg secretly to Hungary,” said Neil. “Most of the workers weren’t Jewish. They were a small group of about thirty people doing extraordinary things.”
Tragically, during WWII the U.S. didn’t help refugees as much as the should have because of the U.S. State Department official in charge of matters concerning all European refugees during the Holocaust, Breckinridge Long.(click to view Neil’s book on Long)
“When I researched Long I came across the War Refugee Board and soon saw the need to write about their work. That lead to my latest about what happened to the Jews after the allies ‘liberated’ Europe. It concentrates on the Bricha, which is Hebrew for escape.”
Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.