It seems not uncommon amongst the rescuers: people who help friends or acquaintances and who help people other than friends or acquaintances, help people who are strangers to them; and who give universalizing reasons for doing what they do. About people like them it would seem safe to conclude that those reasons are not then merely rhetorical superstructures on or rationalizing derivations from friendship - as the putative 'real' cause (or essence) of rescuer behaviour. What, however, of rescuers whose help was just for friends? Or just for friends and the relations of friends? Or whose help was primarily such? Here at least, it might seem clear, we would have come upon the Rorty sort of rescuer. I suggest, on the contrary, that that is not so clear. Let us consider first in this connection the story of Irene Opdyke.
Opdyke was a student nurse at the time of the invasion of Poland. She speaks of her mother as a strong influence - 'she never turned away anyone from her doorstep', 'always knew how to help' - and speaks of her own vocation to be a nurse likewise in terms of helping people. Opdyke was beaten and raped by Russian soldiers and later impressed into labour by the Nazis. Running an errand one day in the nearby ghetto she witnessed scenes of great brutality. 'Most of all, I remember the children', she says. Opdyke decided that 'if the opportunity arrived I would help these people.' She subsequently befriended twelve Jews employed in the laundry at her place of work. As she puts it, 'I didn't have a family. They were persecuted. It was a human bond.' When she then learned of a move impending to liquidate the ghetto, she managed to hide and finally save these friends, at a not insignificant personal cost to herself. She says 'that we belong all together. That no matter what a person's colour, race, religion, or language, we are created by one God'; and that 'all human beings belong to one... family.'
Did Irene Opdyke save her friends only because they were her friends? Or did she save them because of the moral commitments she tried to live by, of the kind of person she was? Or: what was the balance between her feelings of friendship and her more general values or moral impulses, in moving her to act on behalf of people threatened? This question, actually, does not seem all that interesting in relation to Opdyke herself. She plainly had enough reasons, and good ones, to act as she did; and since she herself lays emphasis upon reasons of both kinds, who else could presume to say exactly what the balance was between them? But the question of the balance, of the interrelationship between different sorts of reason, does not closely depend, as it happens, on the chronology or details of Opdyke's particular story. It is of much broader applicability. For it would seem to be the case with those rescuers who came to the aid of friends, acquaintances and other such connected folk, that they also will generally explain themselves in the way we have begun to be familiar with, giving expression to universalist commitments. They - also - say the kind of thing that Rorty suggests rescuers would not usually have said.
Hela Horska, a doctor's wife, who hid the young son of one of her husband's patients and eventually thirteen other members of his family as well, says: 'All my life I worked for social causes... It did not matter who it was if someone needed help I had to give it... I helped because a human being ought to help another.' Albert and Wilma Dijkstra sheltered people Albert knew from his home town. The Dijkstras speak in terms of hiding 'Jewish friends... in danger' - and also of their belief 'that life is sacred', of their 'concern [having] always been with human life and not to whom it belongs', of not 'distinguishing [in this regard] between Christian and Jew, German and Dutch'. Gitta Bauer, who hid a family friend, says it was not a big decision: 'She was a friend and she needed help.' Bauer also says that her father had taught her, 'Jews are people like you and me only with a different religion. And that's it.' She has always been 'concerned about racism of any kind'. Libuse Fries brought aid to a workmate (her husband-to-be) in Theresienstadt, and she helped his sister also and was imprisoned for doing so. Fries was brought up, she tells, 'to love nature and all human beings'; she 'thought it was inhuman to take young people from their families for no reason'. Germaine Belline and Liliane Gaffney, a mother and daughter, helped many Jewish friends: two brothers, their sister, her children, a niece, 'cousins of cousins'. They say: it felt 'natural' because these were friends; and '[t]he one thing I could never stand as a child is injustice'; and 'if you didn't live for others... it wasn't worth living. To be human we need each other.'
And one 'Stanislaus' who had Jewish friends in the Warsaw ghetto nearby, and who together with his mother gave out much help, to friends and others - soup, shelter, finding hideouts. His reasons: 'Human compassion.' And Louise Steenstra who lost her husband, killed in their home by German soldiers for hiding a Jewish friend. She and her husband could not be 'insensitive', she remembers, to the fate looming over the various friends they helped: 'we felt so sorry for those Jewish people with their kids screaming when the Nazis came in the night to pick them up'; '[w]hen you are the mother of one child, you are mother to them all'. And Gustav Mikulai who, 'see[ing] poverty and injustice all around [him]', became a social democrat in his youth, and who all his life has 'had three passions: music, women and Jews' - one of whom he married. He hid his wife and in-laws, and indeed together with a friend 'all the Jews we could'. He was 'sort of drunk with [his] rebellion against the horrible injustice' to them. 'It was a terrible time for humanity.' And Orest Zahajkewycz and Helena Melnyczuk, brother and sister, who hid friends in their home and whose father 'was always trying to help somebody', and who have tried to teach their own children 'to be human' and do the same. They also recall that period, by contrast, in terms of its 'horror - that one human being could do this to another.'
And then, to finish with this grouping in my quasi-sample of rescuers, there is Stefania Podgorska Burzminski. She gave refuge in her apartment to the son of a Jewish woman she worked for, and later to his brother and his sister-in-law; in all, to thirteen people and 'for two winters'. Pivotal to her story as she tells it is this:
Before the war everyone shopped and talked together and everything was fine. But then there was the segregation and the mark of the Jewish star, and that was confusing for me. One day I saw a Jewish boy on the street, about nine years old, and another boy came up to him and said, 'You are a Jew!' and he hit him. A man, just an ordinary worker, saw it and said, 'Why would you do that? He's a boy just like you. Look at his hands, his face. There's no difference. We have enemies now from another country who say there's a difference, but there isn't.' So the boy who hit the Jewish boy looked sad and said, 'Oh, all right, I'm sorry.' I listened to him and I came home and I looked at my hands and I said, 'No, there is no difference.' So, you see, I listened and I learned.Learned just about helping fellow denizens of Poland perhaps? Today, Podgorska voices a concern with the need to 'teach people humanity'.
Now, it might be suggested that with rescuers whose aid was (or was primarily) to people more or less closely connected to them, the articulation of universalist motives and humanist principles can be discounted. They helped whom they knew, you see, and everything else would be at best well-meaning sentiment. But for my own part I do not see how this could possibly be asserted with any confidence, much less explanatory authority. That someone is a friend is in itself, of course, a perfectly good reason for helping them. On the other hand, the pertinent context here is one in which an inestimably large number of people precisely did not help friends, neighbours and other acquaintances. They stood by, looked on or turned away, whether in fear or shame or merely with indifference, as the Jews they knew were taken away or fled. In that sense, as a matter of ethico-sociological generalization, friendship or familiarity plainly is not a sufficient condition of one person's coming to the aid of another in serious jeopardy. If against this background so many of the rescuers who gave help to people close to them tell universalizing stories about what they did and who they are, as well as or sometimes rather than citing friendship and the like, on what basis can it be claimed that their universalizing stories vouchsafe us nothing of what 'really' impelled them?
It might now in turn be said, though, that this reasoning can be reversed against me. How many people also, it will be pointed out, professing similar moral viewpoints to all these rescuers, did not bring aid to Jews in danger. It is, again, an inestimably large number. The argument does not discomfit me, however, nor is the case so reversed genuinely symmetrical with the one it supposedly reverses. For I do not seek to belittle or minimize the part which might have been played by friendship and other particularist loyalties in contributing to individuals' motives for rescue. I simply meet here the effort to belittle or minimize the part played by universalist moral attachments, setting down what I have found. Nor does setting it down imply any claim that, as a matter of ethico-sociological generalization, universal moral attachments might on their part be a sufficient condition of rescue. The point is only that it is a complicated question just what combination of reasons, motives and other factors - temperamental, situational and so on - does, and just what combination does not, move people to act under risk for other people; a question to which no one, so far as I know, has the answer, if indeed there is an answer. All I do is report that a universalist moral outlook appears to have had a very significant part in motivating Jewish rescue. Many rescuers give voice to it and few do not. At the same time, no rescuer I have come across overtly repudiates it. To be sure, there were such people about also, at that time. They seem not to have been heavily involved in helping Jews is all. We know what some of them were doing.
[Rescuers 4 is here.]