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Personality Correlates of Heroic Rescue During the Holocaust


  • This research was supported by Grant AG06535 to Elizabeth Midlarsky from the National Institutes of Health. We gratefully acknowledge and thank Manus Midlarsky for his helpful comments and encouragement throughout the preparation of this manuscript.

about this article should be directed to Elizabeth Midlarsky, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 W. 120th St., New York, NY, 10027. Electronic mail may be sent to


Abstract This study investigated the extent to which personality variables can be used to discriminate non-Jewish heroes of the Holocaust from bystanders and from a comparison group of prewar European immigrants who left their countries of origin prior to World War II. Eighty verified rescuers, 73 bystanders, and 43 immigrants were administered measures of locus of control, autonomy, risk taking, social responsibility, tolerance/authoritarianism, empathy, and altruistic moral reasoning. A three-group discriminant function analysis was able to correctly classify 80.2% of the sample by a combination of personality and demographic variables. When the bystanders and immigrants, who differed very little from each other, were grouped together and compared to the rescuers, the personality variables alone correctly classified 93.1% of the sample. Implications regarding the relationship between personality and altruistic behavior, as well as suggestions for future research are discussed.