July 16: “The Righteous Gentiles”

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About this commemoration

During the Second World War, thousands of Christians and persons
of faith made valiant sacrifices, often at the risk of their own lives, to
save Jews from the Holocaust. These “righteous gentiles” are honored
for courageous action in the face of Hitler’s reign of terror.
Raoul Wallenberg (Lutheran) was a Swedish humanitarian and diplomat
whose great resourcefulness saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during
the Nazi occupation. He issued them Swedish passports so that they
could escape and housed many in Swedish government property in
Budapest, thereby protecting them on the basis of diplomatic immunity.
Hiram Bingham IV (Episcopalian) was an American diplomat in
France during the early years of the Nazi occupation. He violated
State Department protocol by arranging escape routes for persecuted
Jews and often provided the most wanted with safe haven in his own
home. When transferred to Argentina, he devoted considerable effort
to tracking the movements of Nazi war criminals.

Carl Lutz (Evangelical) was a Swiss diplomat in Budapest who also
worked to save the lives of many Hungarian Jews. Although deeply
involved in this endeavor at every level, he is most remembered for
negotiating with the Nazis for safe passage from Hungary to Palestine
for more than 10,000 Jews.

Chiune Sugihara (Orthodox), while serving as Japanese Consul in
Lithuania, rescued thousands of Jews by providing them with travel
credentials so they could escape. In doing so, he violated official
diplomatic policy and was removed from his country’s foreign service.
He lived the rest of his life in disgrace.

André Trocmé (Reformed) and his wife, Magda, were French
Christians who saved the lives of several thousand Jews in France
during the Nazi occupation. He was the pastor in Le Chambon-sur-
Lignon and, together with people in neighboring communities, he
created a safe haven for many refugees from the Nazi terror.
These faithful servants, together with more than 23,000 others verified to
date, are honored at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial overlooking
Jerusalem, and celebrated there as “the righteous among the nations.”


I God of the Covenant and Lord of the Exodus, who by the
hand of Moses didst deliver thy chosen people from cruel
enslavement: We offer thanks for Raoul Wallenberg and all
those Righteous Gentiles who with compassion, courage
and resourcefulness rescued thousands of thy children
from certain death. Grant that, in the power of thy Spirit,
we may protect the innocent of every race and creed in the
Name of Jesus Christ, strong Deliverer of us all; who with
thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.

II God of the Covenant and Lord of the Exodus, by the hand
of Moses you delivered your chosen people from cruel
enslavement: We give you thanks for Raoul Wallenberg
and all those Righteous Gentiles who with compassion,
courage and resourcefulness rescued thousands of your
children from certain death. Grant that, in the power of
your Spirit, we may protect the innocent of every race and
creed in the Name of Jesus Christ, strong Deliverer of us
all; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one
God, now and for ever. Amen.

Joshua 2:1–21
Colossians 3:1–4
John 19:10–15

Psalm 11

Preface of a Saint (2)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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19 thoughts on “July 16: “The Righteous Gentiles”

  1. Collect: The collect mentions one of the Righteous Gentiles, Raoul Wallenberg, by name but not them all. It seems to me that you mention all of them by name, or none of them by name. Since they are being particularly honored for their ‘courage, compassion and resourcefulness’ during WWII I suggest that the sentence say it: … ”rescued thousands of your children from certain death IN NAZI GERMANY.

    Readings: Joshua 2 is a long reading (compared to nearly all in HWHM), though appropriate. Colossians, on the other hand, is very short. John 19 is all about Pilate which seems a bit odd to me. Perhaps a Gospel about the power of love instead? The Psalm is just … well … ‘the Lord weighs the righteous’. What can I say?

    Bio, (a style comment): This is the only bio in HWHM, or formally in LFF that utilizes parentheses to indicate the denomination of someone being commemorated (including the Dorchester Chaplains in HWHM). I suggest instead: ‘Raoul Wallenberg, a Lutheran, was …’; ‘Hiram Bingham IV, an Episcopalian, was …’; ‘Carl Lutz, of the Evangelical tradition, was …’; ‘Chiune Sugihara, an Orthodox Christian, while …’; ‘Andre Trocme, of the Reformed tradition, and his … ‘.

  2. A couple of thoughts: (1) Is there any explicit tradition about people being included in the calendar before their death? Because some of the Righteous Gentiles are still alive. Not many, I’m sure, but one who’s been widely profiled is my grandmother, Marion van Binsbergen Pritchard, who will celebrate her 90th birthday this November. It seems a little bit odd to commemorate a group of people some of whom are still alive.

    (2) Psalm 11 overall is very appropriate, but verse 7 brought me up short. “Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; a scorching wind shall be their lot.” This seems to me to be an extremely problematic verse for a congregation to recite in the context of Shoah remembrance. The Righteous Gentiles saved tens of thousands of people – BUT, six million were still executed, the majority of them by being gassed and then burned. Is this really a context in which we want to talk about coals of fire and burning sulphur raining on ANYBODY?

  3. Correction. Parentheses are utilized for the Dorchester Chaplains (February 3), too. But I have the same comment: should they be used?

    Title: The Righteous Gentiles are distinguished by quotation marks. Why?

    • About the quotation marks, I would guess that it’s because that’s a title given to this group of people by another group (ie survivors).

  4. About the Trocmés and their work in Le Chambon: an excellent book called _Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed_ was written about them a number of years ago by a philosopher who wanted to explore why “good” happens (so much had been written about why “evil” happens). I think the choices for
    HWHM reflect that part of what it means to be considered a saint: the setting of examples for good when it’s hard to be “good;” –and not in the Pelagian sense of being driven by one’s own will, but by God’s will, allowing God to work in one’s life.

  5. I am as moved, humbled, inspired by some of the comments on this blog as I am by the “biographies” themselves. Thank you for that! On one webpage Grace Burson’s grandmother is cited as reminding a gathering that, besides “Righteous Gentiles,” it is wrong to overlook Jewish individuals who helped people escape the Nazis. (Our ecumenical interest includes non-Christians.) Grace, herself, makes the important point that, like her grandmother, living survivors remain who shared in this important and dangerous work. I can easily imagine others, with no particular religious motivation, acting purely from humanitarian motives. Where is the baby and where is the bath, in this commemoration? The present title doesn’t “fit” all those whose courage stirs us. Do we adjust the focus, or do we prefer some over others?

    COLLECT: If the above were acted on, the Collect would need adaptation accordingly. In any event, Michael Hartney’s comments on the Collect seem “right on.” Mention of the Nazi pogrom (or, persecution/ genocide/ holocaust/ etc.) seems important, as does his point about naming all or naming none of those commemorated. When the “bio” is read aloud in worship, his suggestion to replace parentheses with ordinary language, e.g., “(Lutheran)” with “…, a Lutheran,” would make for better public reading (i.e., easier listening). Overall, it’s a good collect, but one that may need tweaking.

    OT READING: Not a good choice. Too long, but more importantly, off base. The commemoration is about courageous intervention to spare the lives of persecuted people, involving civil disobedience and dangerous dissembling, at considerable risk to the protagonists. The Reading from Joshua, on the other hand, on the surface at least, involves courageous intervention on behalf of 5th column spies, risking civil disobedience and dangerous dissembling, but for the self-interest of the dissemblers themselves in the near future. Obviously there’s some overlap, but basically it’s off base. I suggest something from the story of Esther – Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jews.

    EPISTLE: I don’t see the strong connection between this selection (Col 3:1-4) and the commemoration. Would 1 Cor 13:1-7 be a better fit?

    PSALM 11: This isn’t a particularly apt Psalm for the commemoration. Verse 1 questions escaping; v. 3 expresses helplessness (or sounds as if it does); 4 suggests God is far off; 5-6 suggest people are getting “what they deserve”; 7 promises the wicked will get fire, sulphur, and scorching wind (all horribly reminiscent of the ovens!) I suggest instead, Psalm 13 – right content, and right length!

    PREFACE: A Saint (#2) is okay, as suggested. A Saint (#3) strikes me as even better because of the mention of “confessing before the rulers of this world the great Name of your only Son.” (I see this as bearing on the question of ultimate sovereignty — which kingdom, which King?)

    GOSPEL: At first I thought the gospel reading was excellent, but then realized it’s about handing Jesus over instead of rescuing him from execution, and God’s giving Pilate the authority to put people (Jesus in particular) to death. It really didn’t seem to fit this commemoration. I’d suggest Luke 6:20-23, the beatitudes, or Luke 10:30-37, the Good Samaritan.

  6. On my comment today I made reference to a webpage where Grace Burson’s grandmother is cited. To clarify, I didn’t mean it was on this blog. It was a webpage I found elsewhere. I’m sorry if I made it sound otherwise. Still, it’s a prime example of finding something worth pursuing, in HWHM or in the comments, and then following it up. Grace, thank you for that!

  7. I presided at the Eucharist today using these propers. They seemed to work well. I liked the collect, but the Gospel seemed something of a reach. There were no RCs among those mentioned, although I have have heard many stories of their works saving Jews.

  8. An observation worth relaying from a neighboring priest: no women “Righteous Gentiles” are mentioned.

  9. I am new to it, but I very much like the idea of HWHM. My specific comment today is only on the gospel reading. For a commemoration of men and women who were able to see the Jewish people as fellow children of God and act on that human solidarity, it felt wrong to me to have a passage from John which includes the phrase “the Jews” at least twice, a problematic phrase which approached mean spiritedly, or even uncritically out of the context of knowing something about John and his community, lies at the origins and continuation of Christian antisemitism.

  10. Reading over my comment, I see possible ambiguity in my use of the word “out” followed by “of.” “Outside of” is what I meant, i.e.without knowing something of the John community. Sorry.

  11. Having reread “Lest Innocent Blood be Shed” a few months ago, I was struck once again that the courageous work of Andre Trocme could never have been accomplished without his wife, Magda, who was a lapsed Roman Catholic. It was she who first provided sanctuary to a Jewish lady who knocked at the door of their home in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. It was she who identified families which would accomodate (and hide) refugees. Food and other provisions were always a problem that required her attention. Magda Trome is also formally considered a “Righteous Gentile” as is he husband. Pastor Trocme suffered personal tragedy from his work when his nephew, Daniel Trocme, principal of La Maison des Roche school, was arrested by the Gestapo and was gassed to death at Maidenek camp.

    One might consider whether the name of Magda Trocme should not be added to that of her husband.

    I want to second the concern about the fact that there persons still living who sheltered the persecuted during World War II. I think this should be considered since a Genocide Remembrance Day is proposed for April 24. The genocide of the Jews of World War II is one of many genocides. Other groups besides Jews were targeted during World War II (and at many other times), and genocides have been carried out against many ethnic and religious groups over the past two millenia. Rachel will always have many reasons to weep for her children. It seems that every generation will be asked if they will respond to the inhumanity or pass by. So perhaps the well worn parable from Luke is especially good to use again on this day.

    Suzanne Sauter

    • Thank you, Suzanne, for this note about Magda Trocme.
      The select individuals named were chosen with an eye to examples the diversity of those who acted righteously in a time of evil, not intended to be comprehensive. I think the idea of adding a woman would be excellent.
      re: an earlier post -It is not the custom of the Church to include people still living in the roster of ‘saints’, though it is wonderful for local communities to give thanks for their lives and work, still in progress. If a congregation is observing a feast day for the Righteous gentiles and wish to remember and give thanks for other individuals known to them, it would be perfectly appropriate to name and preach about and thank God for them as well.

      • Magda Trocme, unlike her Protestant husband, Pastor Andre Trocme, sheltered Jews and other refugees out of a sense of duty toward others more than any explicit religious beliefs. Magda Trocme fed the police officers who came to arrest her husband not out of any Christian ideal of loving your enemy but rather because it was time for dinner. From what I understand of Magda Trocme’s beliefs as written in Lest Innocent Blood be Shed and her obituary which appeared in the New York Times, her ethics were solidly based on the teachings of Jesus but she would not give that as her reasons for the good work that she did. She always gave very practical reasons for her actions. So in the sense that she never claimed that Jesus was the reason for her work, she is not suitable for the list of persons to be commemorated by the Episcopal Church. Yet, the work that Pastor Trocme did could never have been accomplished without the partnership of his wife.

        Also Magda Trocme does not fit with the “50 year” rule since she died in 1996.

        Andre Trocme died less than 50 years ago as well in 1971. But I would be deeply saddened to see his name dropped from the list because his death was less than 50 years ago. And by the way, there are persons aleady on the list of commemoration who died less thatn 50 years ago.

        Suzanne Sauter

  12. I was made profoundly uncomfortable by the Gospel–it did not strike me as appropriate thematically, and I think its use by Christians in regards to Judaism is troubling historically.

  13. Since Christians are “persons of faith”, I think the first paragraph would be improved by the addition of the word “other” before “persons” in the first line of the first paragraph.

    In the second paragraph, readability would be improved by the addition of a “,” after the word “escape” in the fourth line of the second paragraph.

    Similarly, in the fourth line of the third paragraph, readability would be improved by the addition of a “,” after the word “Jews”.

    Although I do not make a point of commenting on the collects, I suggest that both versions would be improved by the addition of the word “other” in the fourth line before the word “righteous”. (Raoul Wallenberg was himself a Righteous Gentile.)

    I would also suggest that, for consistency, the quotation marks around “the Righteous Gentiles” should either be removed from the heading, or added in the text. (I have a slight preference for deleting the quotation marks.)

  14. My tiny congregation struggled with the Gospel appointed for this commemoration. We read the biography, and were moved by it. But the reading from John 19 was a read distraction.

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