When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Issue of Money

Why should I be grateful? . . . he loved money . . . he did it only for money; besides, every week he kept raising the price. . . . He used to tell me that if the war would drag on he would not keep me. Lola Freud did not approve of the man who gave her shelter.

Roma Zelig's experiences differed; the peasant who saved her never raised the price. And even though Roma describes him as a decent man, her reaction is similar to Lola's: He did it for gold, not because he liked us; then he became scared and fed up. If the war had lasted longer he would not have kept us. . . . This is why I really don't feel gratitude or whatever. It was strictly a business deal.

Annoyed by my questions, Roma told me how she and her family of seven lived in constant fear: Quite often he would say that he did not know why he was sticking his neck out for Jews. . . . He took us for a month, but he never meant to keep us that long . . . he was trapped . . . there were times when we thought he was planning to be rid of us. We were a burden. But it was not easy to do away with eight people.

Reactions such as Roma's and Lola's are very common. They illustrate that help motivated by money left little room for gratitude and attachments, and that resentment grows when people's lives are reduced to a business proposition.

A similar negative evaluation of this kind of aid is also suggested by the Yad Vashem Commission, which bestows honors on Christians who saved Jews. As I mentioned earlier, this commission automatically denies recognition to those who protected for personal financial gain. In my study I, too, excluded from the definition of rescuers all who saved because of payment.

The need that a sharp distinction be drawn between those who protected for gain and those who were motivated by very different considerations comes yet from another quarter. Righteous Christians are also eager to keep the two types of aid distinct. After the war, many who had selflessly

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