Samuel Oliner and Kathleen Lee have have written a compelling and important book regarding the Holocaust. The details in Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story, were obtained from first-hand accounts, beginning with the account of Wilhelm Bachner, a Polish Jew.
Bachner managed to gain a job with a German architectural company by posing as an Aryan. With an engineering degree from a German university and the ability to speak flawless German he was hired to headed a group of construction workers. This afforded him a pass by which he could leave and reenter the Warsaw ghetto at the close of the workday to be with his wife and extended family.
During his employment with the architectural firm, he was able to rescue dozens of Polish Jews by having them pose as Aryans, and by giving them false work permits, false identity papers and and other false identifying documents. He hired some as construction workers, working in the very company he worked in, some he gave clerical jobs to, and others he found work for in other capacities. He also managed to hide others with reputable and trustworthy individuals.
Bachner’s fierce determination and courage saw him through the most adverse of situations, and he never waivered when he saw an opportunity to save a Jew. There were times when his very existence and identity were questioned, but with his strong will he learned to be assertive, almost aggressive, with the SS and other members of the military under Hitler’s command. His identity papers, his university degree, individual Germans who verbally vouched for him, and the fact that the company he worked for was important to Hitler’s cause, saw him through the worst of times.
He and his wife managed to emigrate to California in 1951. His story is told through interviews given by him before he died in 1991, and by interviews with relatives. Interviews were also provided by surviving Jews that he saved, and through their family members. Documents were photographed from archives, and research was painstakingly done in archives.
Samuel Oliner and Kathleen Lee left no stone unturned in telling the story of Bachner, along with the story of his family members. The dozens of Jews he rescued were more than willing to tell the story of how Wilhelm Bachner was the primary force in their survival.
The historical value behind Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story is extremely important, as it focuses on the fact that there was Jewish resistance to the horrific events that unfolded during the Holocaust. In my opinion Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story belongs in every public library, every college and university library, and every personal library. It’s importance as a historical telling can not be emphasized enough.
I personally own and have read this book…three times.
All photography, writing, poetry, etc. is my copyright and may not be reproduced without my express written permission.
March 15, 2012 – 21 Adar I, 5772