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

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

Postscript on Methodology

Much of the published material on the Holocaust is based on personal accounts, casual observations, and scattered case histories. Important as this material is, it was collected more for the purpose of showing the tremendous tragedy of the Holocaust and not as a basis for systematic study. One could only draw a few, very tentative generalizations from these accounts about who had helped and why they had done so, and I soon became convinced that someone needed to approach this subject more systematically.

But systematic study called for more clearly spelled out aims and procedures. I decided that my interest in the rescued-rescuer relationship necessitated examining each of the partners. But who should be included in each group, and where would I find them? Following my personal inclination, I decided to focus on Poland.

I knew that most Polish Jews who survived the war did so in concentration camps, as partisan fighters, and by passing as Christians. In reality these different modes of survival could become blurred, because fugitives found it necessary to switch from one coping strategy to another in strange and unexpected ways. To maintain my special focus of interest, I excluded from my study those Jews who never lived illegally among non-Jews and those who survived mainly as partisan fighters. In the end, however, because Jews were forced to live under a variety of circumstances, the group studied includes some who, in addition to "passing," had other experiences as well. 1

Choosing Polish rescuers was simpler. Any Pole who knowingly aided Jews would fit my criteria. But here too a process of self-selection was at work. Helpers who performed single charitable acts were rarely, if ever, identified by others or by themselves as rescuers. For example, when Jews mentioned Poles who had shown them how to reach a safe place, they limited their description to this particular event. Thus, lack of information would in turn prevent such Poles from becoming a part of my sample.

-195-

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