Nechama Tec is a sociologist and a child survivor. This important and highly readable study focuses on the question: What characteristics defined the group of Christians who became rescuers of Jews? In Poland (although not consistently in other countries) Jewish rescue was punished by death.
Ms. Tec recognizes 5 salient factors of personality: Individuality; Independence; a long lasting Committment to stand up for the helpless; a Lack of Planning in the beginning of the rescue; and a view of the Jews as Helpless and Dependant on others to survive.
The book contains moving personal narritives. There is a succinct capsule of Polish history in the introduction, including an illustrated account of the virulent Polish anti-Semitic campaigns of the 1930's.
In her analysis of Polish anti-Semitism Ms. Tec recognizes two strains: The first kind is violent and an incitement to action. The second kind is diffuse and cultural. It is exemplified in the sayings: "Be a good boy or the Jew will get you"; "Dirty Jew"; and "Don't be a Jew". Even the word "Zyd", Polish for Jew, has a pejorative connotation. Ironically, many rescures were susceptible to this second kind of diffuse anti-Semitism.