By Ben Ganzfried
Arab-Jewish relations during the Holocaust are too often viewed as typified by the actions of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who actively worked with Hitler to murder as many Jews as possible. Challenging this historical outlook, “Among the Righteous” offers a few examples of Arabs who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Robert Satloff provides powerful individual stories of bravery, courage, and sadness. Told from the perspective of family stories and first-time interviews, “Among the Righteous” shows how otherwise ordinary Arab men became heroes and saved defenseless Jewish men and women. What distinguishes the movie is the focus on people who acted out of a sense of humanity rather than adhering to the dictums of the Nazis and their allies in power. People like Khaled Abdul-Wahab who risked his life to save a handful of Jewish women hiding in the animal shed of his farm.
Satloff offers many details that I came across for the first time. From his investigative research of ordinary neighbors who became heroes in the lives of those they saved– to his initial discovery that there were over a hundred concentration camps in North Africa during WWII from comments made in the movie Casablanca. “Rick: Now, you’ve got to listen to me! You have any idea what you’d have to have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine times out of ten, we’d both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn’t that true, Louie?”
Satloff also addresses some of the important implications that his findings bring for today. (What might the future look like if the past focuses on the positive experiences instead of the negative? If these individuals could say ‘no’ to hatred, will the same happen today?) It is a compelling story, and it is the conversations with participants and access to their recollections that only a few possess, that make the movie unique. This movie, in addition to being powerfully poignant, is a persuasive reminder that by honoring individual Arabs, as the movie concludes, we “have honored all the unnamed Arabs who aided Jews in their time of need.” This movie is not indispensable to an understanding of Arab-Jewish relations during WWII, but it is certainly unforgettable.