There's a short report here about a recent occasion in Warsaw at which 55 non-Jewish Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust were publicly thanked by Jewish representatives. The individuals thanked had all previously been honoured by Yad Vashem as 'Righteous Among the Nations'. In thanking them, Stanlee Stahl said:
You, the righteous of the world, think your behavior was ordinary, but we all know it was something more than that. It was truly extraordinary...
In saying this, Stahl puts his finger on one of the striking facts about rescuer behaviour in Nazi Europe: rescuers who risked their lives to save others in danger often present what they did as in no way remarkable, as an elementary duty, no more, when to others their conduct appears - as it was - extremely unusual. Here are a couple of typical quotes taken from rescuer testimony I collected a while back. One Dutch rescuer said:
It wasn't a question of why we acted. The question is why things weren't done by others. You could do nothing else; it's as simple as that. It was obvious. When you see injustice done you do something against it. When you see people being persecuted, and I didn't care whether they were Jews or Eskimos or Catholics or whatever, they were persecuted people and you had to help them.
And another similarly: 'it was easy to do because it was your duty'. The fact that so many rescuers gave reasons of this kind shows that people are capable of behaving in morally admirable, indeed heroic, ways even when the circumstances are very threatening. But, of course, most people in Europe during World War II didn't become rescuers of Jews. The point of note is that those who risked their lives saw their own behaviour as unexceptional when it wasn't.
To this it may be added that we also have evidence of rescuers who felt guilty that they didn't do more. And there is testimony from people who felt shame at not going to the aid of others even when to have done so would have meant certain death. So, the pull of self-interest is very powerful; but the sense of moral obligation, of what is owed to other human beings, is not altogether negligible either.