Since shortly after the end of World War Two, Yad Vashem has collected and authenticated thousands of testimonials from Jewish survivors who asked that the people who risked their lives to save them from the Holocaust be remembered. Yad Vashem honors these rescuers with a medal designating them as a "Righteous Gentile." Yad Vashem also plants a tree marked with a commemorative plaque for each rescuer in a special grove at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
As an interviewer for the Oliners, I was struck by the special personal qualities so many of the fifty or sixty rescuers I talked with seemed to have. The Altruistic Personality Project is a broad sociological study of human behavior. I wanted to create a companion volume to the Oliners' work which would reveal a few of the recuers stories in their rich detail. To do so I returned to six of the rescuers I had interviewed for the Oliners, to record their stories at greater length. I chose the six not only for the variety of their stories, but also because I could inteview some of the Jewish people they had rescued.
Beginning in 1984, I conducted new interviews with rescuers and people they rescued in Canada, Israel, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Poland, and several locations in the United States. I made photographic portraits of each person at the time of the interview, and copied many photographs from their personal albums that helped to illustrate their stories.
Since I began this book project several of the people whose stories are featured have passed away, including Bert Bochove, Herman Feder, Jerry Chlup, Dr. Olga Lilien, Joseph Heinrich, Christine Damski, and John Damski. I dedicate this publication to their memory.