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96 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 RELIGIOUS AND SECUlAR INSIGHTS INTO "RIGHTEOUS GENTILES" Review Essay by Lawrence Baron Lipinsky Institute for Judaic Studies San Diego State University Conscience and Courage: Rescuers ofJews During the Holocaust, by Eva Fogelman. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. 393 pp. $23.95. The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust: A Christian Interpretation, by David P. Gushee. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994. 258 pp. $16.00. The systematic study of the kinds of backgrounds, traits, and values that motivated "Righteous Gentiles" to rescue Jews during World War II is a relatively new field in Holocaust studies. The first books employing this approach, Nechama Tec's When Light Pierced the Darkness and Sam and Pearl Oliner's The Altruistic Personality, were published in the 1980s. Since their appearance, there has been a growing body of scholarly literature written from this perspective.1 In his chapter reviewing such research, David Gushee observes: Important clues can be found concerning the shape of rescuer socialization, as well as personality, but the evidence is modest, suggestive rather than conclusive. Articulated motives for rescue range allover the map-relational, 'For review articles on this literature, see Lawrence Baron, "The Moral Minority: PsychoSocial Research on the Righteous Gentiles," in What Have We Learned? Telling the Story and Teaching thelessons ofthe Holocaust: Papers ofthe20th Anniversary Scholars' Conference, Franklin H. littell, Alan 1. Berger, and Hubert G. Locke, eds. (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993), pp. 119-140; David Gushee, "Many Paths to Righteousness: An Assessment of Research on Why Righteous Gentiles Helped Jews," Holocaust arid GerlOcide Studies 7:3 (Winter 1993), pp. 372-401. Insights into "Righteous Gentiles": Review Essay political, ideological, emotional, principled, religious, and idiosyncratic, with a wide variety of permutations within and among these categories" (p. 116). 97 Eva Fogelman's book focuses primarily on the variety of psycho-social factors that prompted rescuers to risk their lives to save persecuted Jews. Gushee's book explores a different dimension of this topic by analyzing what was distinctive about the Christianity practiced by rescuers who aided Jews for religious reasons. Fogelman bases her findings on over 300 intensive interviews with rescuers of Jews whose acts of courage either have been confirmed by those they helped or substantiated and honored by Yad Vashem. What distinguishes her approach is her attention to rescue as an evolving process. First, the rescuers developed an awareness of the mortal danger the Jews were facing. Sometimes this dawned on them gradually as each rumor, news report, personal experience with German or collaborationist officials, or escalation of the severity of Nazi measures taken against the Jews led to the realization that the Jews were doomed unless someone intervened on their behalf. Other times witnessing a particularly shocking atrocity committed against Jews jolted a rescuer out of his or her complacency. After comprehending the plight of the Jews, rescuers identified what they would do to help Jews and quickly learned that this decision would affect almost every aspect of their lives. They might contact or be contacted by Jewish friends or associates in need of a hiding place. They might join underground networks and serve as couriers, forgers of official identity papers, providers of temporary or permanent shelter for Jews, smugglers ofJews across borders, or sources of intelligence on impending raids of buildings harboring Jews. Whatever clandestine role thay played to assist Jews, they placed themselves and their families in great jeopardy. To avoid detection, rescuers constantly engaged in improvised and planned deceptions of the authorities and most of the people they encountered on a daily basis. If they took Jewish fugitives into their own homes, they had to cope with the personality clashes and tensions that inevitably arose within families forced to reside in close quarters with strangers or friends whose surreptitious presence required every household member to exercise the utmost circumspection in their dealings with outsiders. Fogelman contends that once the rescuers committed themselves to savingJews, "a different self-a rescuer self-emerged, to do what had to be done and to keep rescuers from becoming overwhelmed by new responsibilities and pressures" (p. 68). In her opinion, this "rescuer self" enabled rescuers to transgress their traditional notions of right...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 96-105
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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