Jewish rescue in holland and france during the second world war: Moral cognition and collective action

Michael L. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article Jewish rescue is analyzed as a collective action problem rather than as a question of altruism. Data were collected from 174 rescuers in France and Holland to measure rescue along three dimensions: The motivations of rescue, the cognitive structure of rescue motivations, and the relative importance of personal motivations and incentives in the context of collective action. Three principal conclusions emerge from this study. First, two broad sets of motivations were distinguished: Parochial motivations based on material, religious, and social norms and postmaterial motivations based on social justice. Second, each motivation was linked to a distinct cognitive structure. Parochial motivations were rooted in stable, conventional moral reasoning while postmaterial motivations were characterized by an immature but principled cognitive structure. Finally, motivations themselvesprovided only a weak explanation of rescue. Infrastructural variables and micromobilization contexts organization, material support, and supporting social networks are necessary to sustain collective action and proved more significant than personal motivations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-496
Number of pages34
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* Support for this research was generously provided by the Ettie and Dusty Miller Research Fellowship of TheHaifa University. I am indebted toAaron Cohen for valuable methodological advice, to GeorgLind for permission to use his moral judgment test, to Mordecai Paldiel of Yad Vashem for permission to draw from their extensive files of rescuers, and to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. A special note ofgratitude is also reseroed for Alexandra Heynen and Jennifer Lang for their indispensable research assistance Direct correspondence to Michael L. Gross, Department of Politica! Science, The University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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