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

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Influence of
Class and Politics

Here, in this third and final part of the book, I concentrate on the "whys" rather than the "whats," on explanations rather than descriptions. Whatever findings emerge may reach beyond the Holocaust. They may tell who in time of trouble would be more likely to stand up for the defenseless and the persecuted.

To unravel the characteristics and motivations of the righteous, I start by considering currently held assumptions, continue by adding new observations, and end by summarizing and integrating the material of this book. In the next three chapters, then, I will examine the extent to which class, politics, friendship, and religion identify the rescuers and explain their protection of Jews.

Traditionally class and politics have functioned as important predictors for behavior. When it comes to class and rescue, some have assumed that righteous Christians are not distinguishable in terms of social class,* that they come from all levels of society. 1 Others, trying to describe the occupational affiliation of helpers, have similarly pointed to a wide array of categories, ranging from celebrated writers to grave diggers. 2 Still others who have tried to develop special typologies have concluded that it is difficult to differentiate helpers from the rest of the population. 3

Among those willing to make more specific predictions, a central assumption has been that the working or lower class showed a greater propensity to help than others. 4 Thus, noting that in every nation there are people who put themselves out for others, Zygmunt Rostal, a rescuer who came from a poor laborer's background, conceded only very reluctantly that other groups too might have helped, but emphasized that among the laborers, in my circle, one rarely saw people who were completely indifferent. In Zygmunt's view most working class people were sympathetic to the Jewish plight and hence were more likely to protect them.

____________________
*
"Class" is here defined loosely by occupation

-115-

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