I. Definition of terms
Yad Vashem criteria for "Righteous Gentiles":
1) extending help to save a life that is repeated and/or substantial
2) endangering one's own life
3) absence of reward, monetary or otherwise
4) deeds go beyond ordinary help
5) must be nominated by a Jewish party
6) helping a family member or Jewish convert to Christianity does not count
So far, over 20,000 individuals have been so honored
Additionally, it should be kept in mind that:
a) some people protected Jews, not for money, but accepted money for food payments and other expenses
b) some people protected Jews but did not survive (example: the Frank protectors)
II. Different types of helpers in the Holocaust
A. Paid helpers
B. Anti-semitic helpers
C. Altruistic helpers
1. Dr. Eugene Lazowski
2. Irene Gut Opdyke
D. Rescuers on a larger scale:
Aristedes de Sousa Mendes
Dr. Adelaide Hautval
the Village of Le Chambon
III. What did the altruistic helpers do to help?
A. Provide food
B. Provide temporary or long-term shelter
C. Arrange for shelter elsewhere
D. Get fake documents
E. Help find jobs
IV. Why did they help?
A. Was it mainly because of religion?
B. Was it mainly beause of friendship?
C. Was it mainly because of politics?
D. Was it mainly out of moral obligation?
V. The characteristics of the helpers
A. Proportinally more likely to come from the "intellectual class", but this group was still a minority
B. Political ideology typicall not important, but it was for some
C. Often emphasized moral obligation as main motivation
D. Nechama Tec concludes
2. self-reliance in pursuing personal values
3. matter-of-fact views about rescue
4. long-lasting commitment to help the needy
5. unplanned, sometimes impulsive beginning of rescue
6. universal perceptions of the needy that overshadow all other attributes
E. Altruistic rescuers consistent with Maslow's theory about self actualization
1. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs (1908-1970):
2. Only about 1% become self-actualized (see characteristics below)
1. Behaviors that increase organism's reproductive success
a. seems counterproductive: resources go to help
other organisms survive
b. however: organisms motivated to help those
who are genetically similar (e.g., children)
|Little support for this theory in the rescuers' behavior Most of the rescuers didn't have kin that needed help. To the contrary, in the majority of cases, rescuers during the Holocaust helped people they did not even know.|
2. Reciprocal altruism
a. the teamwork gene
b. example: if someone in your boat is drowning, help is expected
|The application of this theory
to the Holocaust depends on how big a metaphorical boat one wants to create.
If the boat is one's ethnic/racial/religious group, then there is
little support for this theory, given that many of the rescuers were Christian.
I suppose one could define the boat as "human kind" (clearly many of
the rescuers did just that!), but, frankly, I think that's stretching this
theory much futher than it was intended to go.
1. Empathy-altruism theory (motivated solely by desire to help recipient)
helping increases with higher levels of empathy
|Many accounts by both rescuers
and survivors suggest that empathy was indeed one of the primary (if not
the only!) reason for why the rescuers provided help.
2. Empathic joy (feedback) theory = empathy leads to
but only if helper can learn outcome
|There is a lot of support
for this theory in the social psychology literature, but there was little
evidence for it in the Holocaust. Jews were often moved from house to house,
and while everyone hoped to survive, rescuers lived under the constant threat
of personal death, much less the possibility of the Jews they were helping
1. Individuals experiencing negative emotions help more
2. Souce of negative emotion irrelevant
3. helping produces feelings of calmness, self-worth, and physical warmth
|Hard to imagine how making
oneself feel better would override safety concerns during the Holocaust, although
many rescuers certainly did take pride in their efforts, both at the time
Interviewer - In your opinion, another Auschwitz, another massacre like the one which took place 40 years ago, could it happen again?
Primo Levy - Not in Europe, for reasons of immunity; Some kind of
immunization must exist. It is difficult that in a few decades, 50, 100 years,
another Nazism may be reborn in Germany, another Fascism in Italy... But
the world is much bigger than Europe. I also think that there are countries
in which there would be the desire, but not the means. The idea is not dead.
Nothing ever dies. Everything arises renewed.