Aid Offered Jews in Nazi Germany: Research Approaches, Methods, and Problems

22 September, 2014
Beer Suzanne


Over recent decades much has been written about the perpetrators involved in the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany and the Nazi-occupied regions1. But despite scattered stories about hiding and rescue that have emerged since the 1950s in public memorializing of the Holocaust, researchers have rarely taken up the material concerning those Germans who helped save Jews from arrest and deportation2 and subjected it to systematic analysis.3 We thus still know very little about this small, remarkable group of Germans—a tiny minority of Germany's population, acting within a highly hostile environment—who actively interceded on the behalf of persons of Jewish origin. The few empirical studies that have appeared on the subject since the 1960s have in any event not established an independent field of research marked by an overarching discussion of sources, methods, and problems.

This article is consequently meant as a spur towards deeper consideration of the possibilities and problems tied to research on help offered Jews by Germans in Nazi Germany. Considering central methodological problems tied to work with retrospectively written personal accounts, I will show how the help offered Jews emerged from an interplay between social opportunity-structures and their individual appropriation.4 The following observations are meant to contribute to the renewal of research on rescuers as signaled, for instance, in the recently published collection of articles La résistance aux genocides: research that has critically analyzed the image of the rescuer, pointing to the importance of situational factors for understanding rescue in the context of genocide.5

Sociological and Psychological Approaches

Initial reports by Jews who survived underground already appeared in the early postwar period. In the late 1950s, reports about individual helpers also began appearing.6 But we can only observe a distinct increase in publications on the theme starting in the late 1980s.7 Most of these publications are memoirs. Alongside them are various scholarly studies aimed at reconstructing individual episodes of assistance, but with no far-reaching conclusions regarding the conditions making it possible. The few exceptions are generally studies that try to draw conclusions regarding typical helpers, juxtaposed with typical bystanders—individuals who had neither supported Jews nor practiced other forms of resistance.Here two approaches can be distinguished: on the one hand we find sociological studies focused on helpers' specific socio-demographic characteristics; on the other hand we find psychological studies looking into personality structures and early childhood influences.

One of the first sociological studies was published by the American political scientist Manfred Wolfson in the late 1960; it was based on interviews with 76 German helpers using a standardized questionnaire.8 Its assessment showed that most of these individuals were men (60%) who were married (73%) and born before 1910 (84%). Nearly half of those interviewed had upper middle class or highly prosperous backgrounds. Many of them had not only interceded on behalf of Jews but actively participated in other forms of resistance as well (57%). From this Wolfson concluded that «the small group of rescuers were not only very close to the resistance but actually constituted an important part of it.»9

More recent studies have raised doubts about Wolfson's conclusions. Hence a research project led by the Berlin historian Wolfgang Benz pointed to women, not men, as being overrepresented among the helpers.10 The same study called the political and economic profile Wolfson ascertained into question: the helpers mainly came from modest circumstances, it found; they were neither connected to the political resistance nor were markedly different from other Germans in terms of economic position, familial status, and religious affiliation.11 For this reason the effort to sociologically define the German helpers seems for the time being to have failed.12

In respect to the psychological current running through this work, the American researchers Samuel and Pearl Oliner have taken the lead with an extensive questionnaire-based study at the Humboldt State University in California. Here 406 helpers from various European countries were questioned; 231 of these subjects were compared with a control group of former bystanders.13 The two Oliners saw the central difference between helpers and bystanders as involving the hierarchy of values within each group: where helpers strongly emphasized ethics—values such as concern for others and justice—bystanders were more concerned with economic competence.14 For the Oliners, the former group thus consisted of socially competent and caring persons, the latter group of those tending toward egocentricism and individualism.15

The Olners' study represented an important moment in the analysis of the rescue of Jews in the Third Reich. It remains the most comprehensive treatment of the theme, establishing a methodological approach that would be repeatedly taken up in subsequent years.16 The approach is based on work with questionnaires and interviews in which helpers are queried regarding their motives, attitudes, and personality traits. The presumption here is that the information supplied in the questionnaires some forty years following the events mirrors characteristics of the helpers possessing lifelong stability. In the 1980s, the Oliners thus stated that «We…assume that despite the passage of years and change in external circumstances, the people we meet today have many of the same predispositions they manifested at the outbreak of war.»17 Only this assumption of lifelong stable psychological dispositions allows conclusions about past behavior from retrospective information on attitudes and motives.

However, psychological researchers have raised objections to the idea that personality traits remain unaltered. Most studies in fact presume that such traits are even subject to steady change after puberty—change that only subsides at the age of 40, 50, or even 60.18 Some studies have actually observed significant changes beyond the latter threshold.19 There is in any event little empirical evidence for the stability thesis. One of the severest critics of the thesis, the American psychologist Michael Lewis, has argued that life circumstances determine changes in personality characteristics and that their stability in old age is simply a reflection of stability of the circumstances, not any immutable psychological script.20 Recent research on memory and memory-linked narratives has come to similar conclusions, confirming not only that human identity alters over a lifetime but that the description of one's life correspondingly changes.21

Memories as Source Material

Research on rescue has to cope with the fact that retrospective personal accounts by both Jewish survivors and those who offered them aid are often the only available sources, given that there are few documents dating from the events themselves. The lack of contemporary sources is tied to the clandestine nature of the aid: those supporting Jews avoided leaving traces of their activities; in view of the frequency of denunciations, their concern with maximum secrecy was not only centered on the police and Gestapo but neighbors and acquaintances as well—and in some cases spouses and children. Hence many cases of aid are only known to us because of postwar accounts by survivors and their supporters. These autobiographical memories are not in themselves more problematic than other sources. Putatively objective sources such as police and Gestapo minutes themselves contain false and misleading statements, for instance when arrested individuals played down their activities for the simple sake of self-protection. No type of source is inherently free of such bias. It would thus be mistaken to sweepingly demote personal accounts in favor of other sources. It is nevertheless important to be aware of the practical and methodological problems tied to a field of research that mainly relies on one type of source, retrospective autobiographical accounts.

What particular features of the accounts need to be emphasized here? Our memory, it would seem, does not function like a machine that records what has been experienced and that can be consulted afterwards. Rather, it needs to be understood as a thematic network altering its structure with each new experience and mnemonic act. In this way elements resting on belated or even indirect experience can be integrated into one's own biography.22 This does not mean that narratives of experience become increasingly less reliable the further removed they are from the events. To the contrary, people can sometimes gain a better grasp of their lives over time, gaining insight regarding actions and contexts that were once incomprehensible. But precisely this altered insight means that the past experience can no longer be comprehended with the earlier «naïve» perspective.23

Helene Jacobs' memoirs offer one example of the retrospective reinterpretation of one's own actions. Jacobs first described her experiences in an essay she wrote in 1947. She here presented her help for persecuted Jews as reflecting a sense of Christian responsibility for the ongoing crimes, a sense shared with the circle of active Christians to which she belonged. In her text we thus read as follows: «The impossibility of denying this responsibility held us upright. In this hopeless situation, Jesus Christ, whom we had come together to hear and understand, wanted to make us ready for responsibility towards every person who laid claim to a foundation for the hope he had given to us.»24 If we compare this explanation to the contents of an interview that a group of students conducted with Helene Jacobs nearly forty years later (1983), then we see that religious motivation has now been replaced by democratic conviction and loyalty to the Weimar Republic. «Discrimination,» she recalls, «was an impossibility for me because they were after all fellow citizens and because I was for the Weimar constitution»25 Likewise, contact with likeminded Christian fellow helpers, emphasized so strongly in 1947, now played a subordinate role, Jacobs instead laying her main emphasis on, as she recalled it, the fact that «finally everyone was in it alone.»26

Jacobs altered description of the motivations for her aid was presumably connected to experiences accumulated since 1947. In the postwar years she came to realize that a strong antisemitic tradition persisted within the Protestant Church. That was the background for her retrospective critique of the behavior of her congregation under the Nazis and her call for a new theological perspective.27 To this end, she would be active for many years in Germany's Gesellschaft für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit(Council for Jewish-Christian Cooperation) and the Ständiger Arbeitskreis von Juden und Christen in Berlin(Permanent Working Group of Jews and Christians in Berlin).28 But the differences between the 1947 and 1983 narratives were also clearly tied to the altered narrative context. The first text appeared in the Protestant publication Unterwegs; Jacobs was thus addressing a Christian public she wished to remind of the resistance of Christians under National Socialism. In contrast, the second text emerged from an interview in which she was asked to talk about her childhood, parents' house, and personal experiences. Jacobs was now speaking as a witness wishing to transmit democratic values to her youthful audience.29

The self-descriptions of former helpers did not convey fixed, definitive knowledge but depended on the period in which they were articulated—their particular narrative context—and the nature of those they were addressing. This has basic implications for research on their activities, as the catalyzing motives and values of the 1980s were not necessarily those of the 1940s. The Oliners already encountered this problem in their study. Namely, with their questionnaire they had not only registered the self-evaluation of those interviewed but also evaluated the circumstances surrounding the first assistance the helpers had offered. The results were surprising: more than half those surveyed indicating they acted on the basis of group expectations and pressure—rather, that is, than citing empathy with persecuted Jews.30 This information stood in clear contrast with the self-evaluations, where factors such as ethical considerations, deep concern for others, and feelings of universal justice were most often referred to as the chief motivations. None of these subjects mentioned a sense of duty; only three percent indicated they acted for the sake of external approval.31

The situative context of aid offered persecuted Jews

In their work on autobiographical narratives, the sociologists Fritz Schütze and Gabriele Rosenthal postulate that interviewed subjects offer far more information than is present in their explicit assessment of the past.32 The knowledge of these witnesses is «latent»: careful textual analysis is necessary to bring it out.33 To this end, their narratives are divided into various genres, in particular into descriptions, argumentations, and stories. While argumentations and descriptions display a strong relationship with the present, thus helping us understand the current positions of those being interviewed, stories about series of past events convey more stable information that can be at a distance from the conscious processes unfolding in the first two categories.34 For reconstructing the dynamic at work in those instances of aid offered Jews by Germans in Nazi Germany, an analytic focus on those passages from witness accounts suggesting the concrete situations in which such action occurred thus seems justified.

Helene Jacobs' biography offers us an entrée to such a situational analysis. The first act of assistance she recalls took place during Germany's nation-wide pogrom (so-called Kristallnacht) in November 1938. At the time she was an employee in the office of a Jewish patent lawyer, Hermann Barschall. When a putative policeman rang the bell at her boss's office, Jacobs, fearing he was going to be arrested, denied he was present. In the days that followed, she helped Barschall hide; possibly he stayed for a time in her apartment. 35

Let us look more closely at the initial situation in which Helene Jacobs' aid was offered. When the doorbell of Hermann Braschall's office rang, his wife Elise was present there as well. In her 1983 interview Jacobs offers the following recollection:

That day we continued to work…and in the evening we were about to stop when the front bell rang. Frau Barschall was on the floor above and the front garden was closed, so that no one could come into the garden without the gate being opened from the inside. And she then asked who was there. And she was also very fast-thinking when she noticed that a shady person was standing there. He naturally had no uniform; he was a young man. He had to speak to the Herr Doktor…and then she said «the Herr Doktorisn't home.» She said that immediately, and then she asked me to go to the garden and ask what he wanted.36

At the garden gate, the man explained he was from the police and was there for a foreign-exchange control, upon which Jacobs told him her boss was not in the office and his time of return was uncertain.37 It is in any event clear from her account that her action was prompted by Braschell's wife having already informed the unwelcome visitor her husband was gone. Jacobs repeated this lie, which she had probably already offered at the entrance gate on previous occasions, acting as a loyal employee should.

The first step towards later helping actions was thus made in a familiar context and in the framework of a customary role. It was a small, nearly self-evident step. But it represented an important experience, success in fooling the claimed policeman and saving Hermann Barschall from imminent arrest. Such small successes were of great significance for the emergence of assistance to the persecuted Jews. Many of those who helped Jews survive underground in the 1940s were building on smaller and less dangerous forms of assistance offered during the 1930s.38

Although framed by her employee status, Helene Jacobs' help was by no means predetermined. Obviously, she could have betrayed her boss. We know that denunciation of Jewish acquaintances was common in Nazi Germany. Non-Jews involved in private or professional conflicts with Jews could simply and quickly resolve matters through a denunciation.39 Jacobs could herself have used the putative exchange control to show her boss that thanks to the new political regime, she, a simple employee, had the power to either protect him or hand him over.

But Helene Jacobs did not seize this opportunity. In order to understand her decision to offer her help, we need to consider a broader biographical context. In November 1938 Jacobs was 32 years old. She had already been working in Barschall's law office fourteen years, nearly half her life. If we trust her memories, the job offered her great satisfaction. In her words: «I had such a lovely profession and my boss was ready to respect me as an equal to an amazing extent.»40 Barschall encouraged Jacobs to take an aptitude test allowing her to begin a course of studies in mathematics and the sciences.41 He was thus not only her boss but her intellectual mentor, a man she esteemed. Through Barschall, Jacobs came into contact with inventors and scientists «of Jewish humanist orientation»42—an environment that was new to her and impressed her:

I also became acquainted with people…and these included Nobel Prize winners and very interesting people I was able to meet although I wasn't academically inclined and actually in let's say a subordinate position to them, actually only a head clerk. And they were all somewhat special, brought me into their thoughts as if it was self-evident and were very pleased about everything I contributed to our conversations.43

Clearly, such respectful treatment deeply moved Jacobs; very likely it instilled strong feelings of gratitude in her, so that betraying Barschall would have been out of the question. What this case suggests is that in themselves structural opportunities offered in a certain milieu, for instance professional contact with Jews, are insufficient for explaining the helpers' actions. Rather, just as important is the way a certain social position is interpreted by the actors, both these dimensions calling for close consideration. The contact to Hermann Barschall and Helene Jacobs' presence in his office at the time of the threatened arrest did not determine a certain course of action. As suggested, her decision to offer help rather than engage in betrayal is significantly clarified when we consider her subjective viewpoint, her emotional ties with and feelings of thanks to the man she helped save.

Appropriating Possibilities for Action

The connection between social structures of opportunity and their individual appropriation is a complex one. For people are not only able to interpret their social context differently but also to influence it and help shape it to different degrees. They can reproduce it, withdraw from it, modify it.44 Hence in research on German helpers, we have to examine not only the structures and their appropriation but the strategies used to exert such influence.

Following the November 1938 incident, Elise und Hermann Barschall decided to emigrate, Helene Jacobs then supporting their preparations and traveling a number of times outside Germany to file entry requests and secure the couple's assets.45 Emigration would succeed in July 1939, Jacobs then remaining behind and facing the task of private and professional reorientation. Now 33, she had neither husband nor children; on account of her opposition to Nazism, she felt «very isolated.»46

She found a new peer group in the so-called Confessional Church (the Bekennende Kirche,BK) in Berlin-Dahlem. This church had formed in May 1934 in opposition to the official German Protestant church, in order to resist both state influence and the antisemitic program of the «German Christians.»47 Already in the mid-1930s, Jacobs went to sermons by BK pastor Martin Niemöller in the St. Anne Church in Berlin-Dahlem. She there found a «community of people in whom you could have a certain trust in their human intactness.»48 But Jacobs only developed intensive contact with this BK congregation after a grave mental crisis in the fall of 1939. At that time she entered into a relationship with a married congregation member, then ending it with strong guilt feelings vis-à-vis the man's wife. A few months later, she wrote as follows in a letter to her pastor Helmut Gollwitzer:

My life is so astonishingly free of the ties that almost every person has. I do not have a profession, and certainly no family....And thus it continues.…When I finally decided to participate in the life of the Dahlem congregation, I immediately made myself as impossible as was conceivable. It is especially difficult for a woman to live so completely disconnected and relying on herself.49

In order to exit this depression and feelings of isolation, Jacobs turned to BK member Gertrud Staewen, whom a clergyman had recommended to her as a contact person.50 A confidential relationship emerged between the two women; it was Jacobs' deep wish «to be able to have a place in the Dahlem church,»51 and in the end she managed to join the circle of socially engaged congregation members with Staewen's help. Among other activities, she participated in the «working group on dogma,» a reading circle that focused on the work of Karl Barth.52 In this context she became acquainted with, among other people, the BK member Franz Kaufmann, himself to be persecuted for his Jewish origins, who appealed fervently for displaying solidarity and offering help to Jews. He would become an important model for Jacobs as her perspective developed.53

For the rescue activities of Helene Jacobs, her integration into the BK structures would be of central significance. Through them she came into contact with «non-Aryan» Christians and existing aid networks. Some BK members had been engaged in organized aid for such «non-Aryans» since 1938,54 with initiation, for instance, of a visiting service for persecuted members of the Dahlem congregation as a reaction to the November pogrom.55 In early 1941, Jacobs expanded this service. To do so, she procured the addresses of those affected, who had previously been cared for by colleagues of the pastor Heinrich Grüber, arrested in December 1940.56 In March 1941 she participated in an action of the congregation that involved sending packages of food and clothing to Jews from Stettin and Schneidemühl deported to the Lublin ghetto.57 As a result in August 1941 Jacobs had what she would later refer to as «my first interrogation by the Gestapo,» which tried to ferret out the names of potential supporters of the project. «This had no personal consequences for me,» she recalled, «but we had to stop our package action.»58

When the deportations began in Berlin in October 1941, «non-Aryan» members of the Dahlem congregation were also affected. Helene Jacobs now developed strategies of aid going beyond the charity-work within the BK. In cooperation with Franz Kaufmann, she began to support persecuted persons who had taken the step into illegality, sheltered strangers in her apartment, procured false papers for them, and participated in bribing Gestapo employees. In this way Jacobs emerged as one of the central figures in Kaufmann's rescue network, which appears to have helped around 300 Jews; 59 according to my research, at least twenty of these individuals were helped by Jacobs. These activities marked a sharp difference between her and many other congregation members for whom illegal measures were unacceptable. They weighed heavy on Gertrud Staewen, who in September 1942 wrote Helmut Gollwitzer as follows: «Helmut, a year ago I was still a relatively bourgeois and proper woman. Now I've gradually become a gangster. Translate that into the work, the terrible work, that connects Jacobs and myself.»60

One observation seems called for in light of this remark. A strong fear at disobeying laws even when they conflict with basic principles of justice is frequently perceived as stemming from a German authoritarian propensity: in our context, an absence of courage for civil disobedience because of affective ties to the «Führer State.» Be this as it may, in the case of the German helpers, a hesitation to act is perhaps best explained in terms of the specific situation of the early 1940s, when no alternative to the Nazi regime was on the horizon. Otherwise than was the case with for example their counterparts in France, who could legitimate their actions through some popular support, an established resistance network, and a functioning exile regime, in breaking the law German helpers were largely isolated, and were maneuvering themselves into social marginality.61

Taking this into account points all the more strongly to Jacobs' willingness to accept her isolation and her efforts to shape her personal situation in order to amplify her room of maneuver. Although she suffered from her lack of family or a markedly successful career, she wrote to Gollwitzer in late 1940, that «this of course doesn't only have a negative sense. Once I become very calm about this the positive sense will reveal itself.»62 Jacobs knew that as a childless woman she was offered possibilities other women may not have had: possibilities offered, for instance, by flexibility with her time and a capacity to make decisions without endangering family members. In addition, the special social position she had in the neighborhood meant she could carry out her rescuing in a way that was both self-willed and discrete: no one was interested in such a social outsider. She confirmed this in her 1986 interview: «My strength was…anonymity, that no one cared about me.» And further: «I passed as a misfit in any case, intentionally so.»63

Jacobs' active shaping of the conditions for her rescue work also emerges in the course taken by her professional life. Following the Barschall family's emigration, she initially searched for a new job. But when she was asked to furnish information about her «Aryan» ancestry, she found this morally unacceptable and the idea of working in a regulated, state-supervised employment system intolerable. 64 Instead she decided to earn her money as an independent patent consultant and secretary. As Jacobs recalled things, she could in this way earn the very respectable sum of 250 reichmarks for only one full day's work weekly.65 Outside the Labor Front's control, this arrangement allowed her to intensify her efforts on behalf of persecuted Jews and «non-Aryans.»

All told, Helene Jacobs' biography suggests that helping activities are best understood in the context of specific social constellations. What was initially most important was personal contact to Jews, followed later by membership in the Confessional Church, integration into existing aid networks, freedom from family responsibilities, short working hours and relative financial independence tied to specialized competence, and outsider status in the neighborhood. But all these factors were not simply givens—rather, they were actively developed and utilized by Jacobs. This in turn suggests that it would be mistaken to derive the sort of help she gave from a particular position and connected opportunities. Only their individual appropriation makes the subsequent rescue efforts comprehensible.


This discussion has been based on two premises, the first of which is that the central source material of research on Germans offering aid to persecuted Jews and «non-Aryans» in the Third Reich, retrospectively written personal accounts, does not offer «objective data»; rather, it consists of narratives produced at certain times in certain social contexts. For this reason the accounts need to be interpreted against the backdrop of their context of origin and supplemented by historical-sociological analysis. Situational analysis can help determine the social framework in which the aid emerged, thus allowing consideration of the decisions made by the actors involved, independently of their own retrospectively formulated interpretations.

The second premise is that the effort by researchers to identify individual psychological or sociological factors distinguishing helpers from non-helpers does not furnish satisfactory explanations. Only the interchange of social opportunities and their individual interpretation and appropriation offers insight into why a small number of Germans became helpers while countless others in similar contexts did not. For this reason, in the future researchers in this field should not focus on fixed distinctions between helpers and bystanders but rather on biographical processes of change and efforts to appropriate possibilities of action. The situational analysis I am proposing ties these two dimensions together: the help is located in its social context and the appropriation of possibilities is rendered visible.



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  • 1. Translation by Joel Golb ( This article was prepared with financial assistance from the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah; thanks as well to the Centre Marc Bloch for having helped fund the English-language translation.
  • 2. For a survey of the forms and extent of such assistance see Benz 2006 and Kosmala 2004. The more or less exact number of individuals involved here is uncertain. For Berlin, Beate Kosmala has estimated around 7,000 Jews in hiding and around 30,000 helpers (Kosmala/Croes 2011, 124). For Nazi Germany as a whole we can presume at least 10,000 Jews in hiding and 40,000 helpers.
  • 3. On public commemoration of these helpers in Germany, France, and Israel see Riffel 2002, Cabanel 2012, 19-45, Gensburger 2010, Kabalek 2011, and Semelin 2013, 527-536.
  • 4. The term «opportunity structures» stems from research on political and social movements by social scientists. It was first used by the political scientist Peter Eisinger to help explain the emergence of political protest in American cities. Eisinger was here concerned with systematizing those influences catalyzing or checking social movements. The political scientist Sidney Tarrow defines opportunity structures as «consistent—but not necessarily formal or permanent—dimensions of the political environment that provide incentives for people to undertake collective action by affecting their expectations of success and failure" (Tarrow 1994, 85). On the term's use by researchers, see Kern 2008, 152-174. In work on National Socialism the term is used in the context of the social emergence of violence (see Welzer 2005, 202 and Welzer/Neitzel 2011, 218).
  • 5. Andrieu et al. 2011.
  • 6. For early accounts by survivors see Krakauer 1947, Boehm 1949, and Behrend-Rosenfeld 1949. For first descriptions by individual helpers see Friedman 1957, Leuner 1966, Horbach 1967, and Fink 1968.
  • 7. This observation is based on an assessment of the bibliography of the Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook from 1958 to 2010. A detailed overview of developments in research on Germans who helped Jews in Nazi Germany will be included in my Ph.D. thesis on that topic (planned completion date: 2015).
  • 8. Walter-Busch 2002, 356.
  • 9. Wolfson 1971, 39.
  • 10. Kosmala / Schoppmann 2002, 21.
  • 11. See Kosmala 2007, 32 and Benz 2006, 48.
  • 12. It appears to have been more successful in respect to other European countries. For the French context see Gross 1994, Frenk 2008, Cabanel 2012, 47-102, and Semelin 2013, 536-540.
  • 13. See Oliner 1988, pp. 261-262.
  • 14. Ibid., 292 (table 6.7).
  • 15. Ibid., 256-260.
  • 16. See for instance Fogelman 1995, Monroe 2004, Varese / Yaish 2005, and Kroneberg 2011.
  • 17. Oliner 1988, 11. See also Kroneberg 2011, 265.
  • 18. See the meta-study by Roberts / DelVecchio 2000.
  • 19. See Aldwin / Levenson 1994, Pervin 1994.
  • 20. See Lewis 1998 and Lewis 2001. For a methodological critique see also Helson and Stewart 1994.
  • 21. See Welzer 2002 and Fried 2004.
  • 22. On this phenomenon of montage see Welzer 2002, 185-206 and Schacter 2001, 112-137.
  • 23. On the reconstructive character of memories see Halbwachs 1925, Fried 1994, and Rosenthal 1995.
  • 24. Jacobs 1947, 12.
  • 25. Jacobs 1983, 4.
  • 26. Ibid., 34.
  • 27. See Jacobs 1987.
  • 28. On Jacobs' engagement for a Jewish-Christian dialog see Lohwasser 1998, 24-34.
  • 29. For a detailed discussion of shifts of meaning in the accounts of Helene Jacobs see Beer 2010.
  • 30. See Oliner 1988, 199-209.
  • 31. See Oliner 1988, 142-170 and 287 (table 6.2).
  • 32. See Rosenthal 1995 and Schütze 1983.
  • 33. See Hermanns 1991, 185.
  • 34. On the significance of scenic memory for oral history see Wierling 2003. For a detailed description of the categories of narration, description, and argumentation and their subcategories see Kallmeyer and Schütze 1977. See also Rosenthal 1995, 240-41.
  • 35. See Szepansky 1983, 61.
  • 36. Jacobs 1983, 22-23.
  • 37. Ibid., 23.
  • 38. For the concept of «helpers' careers» as a way of approaching the learning process undertaken by these individuals, see Beer 2010.
  • 39. See Reuband 2001, 223 and Diewald-Kerkmann 1995, 148.
  • 40. Jacobs 1983, 8.
  • 41. Ibid., 13.
  • 42. Ibid., 17.
  • 43. Ibid., 17.
  • 44. See Lüdtke 2002 and Lüdtke 1993, 375-382, passim.
  • 45. Jacobs 1983, 24. Jacobs' trips outside Germany are confirmed in the personal account of Henry H. Barschall, the son of Hermann and Elise Barschall. See Barschall 1999, 7.
  • 46. Jacobs 1983, 10.
  • 47. For an overview of the history of the BK see Gailus 2012. The Confessional Church emerged in reaction to introduction of the Aryan Paragraph and the connected exclusion of Germans of Jewish origin from the Protestant Church. However, with the exception of individual ministers the BK did not speak out publicly against antisemitism. The main focus of its resistance involved defense of Church autonomy against Nazi policies of Gleichschaltung. See Gerlach 1993.
  • 48. Jacobs 1983, 29.
  • 49. Jacobs to Gollwitzer, 2 and 3 Dec. 1940, Evangelisches Zentral Archiv Berlin, Helmut Gollwitzer archives (henceforth EZA), Bestand 686/3259.
  • 50. See Jacobs 1954.
  • 51. Jacobs to Gollwitzer, 21 Nov. 1939, EZA, Bestand 686/3259.
  • 52. On this working group see Schäberle-Koenigs 1998, 102.
  • 53. See Jacobs 1947, 10. Following his denunciation Franz Kaufmann was arrested in 1943 and murdered in February 1944 without being tried. For a biography of Kaufmann see Rudolph 2005.
  • 54. A central «Grüber office» for helping «non-Aryan congregation members was set up to this end. For the history of the office see Ludwig 1991.
  • 55. See Schäberle-Koenigs 1998, 184-188.
  • 56. See Szepansky 1983, 65-66.
  • 57. Jacobs to Gollwitzer, 24 Aug. 1941, EZA, Bestand 686/3259.
  • 58. Cited from Szepansky 1983, 66.
  • 59. See Kroh 1984, 20.
  • 60. Staewen to Gollwitzer, 11 Sept. 1942, EZA, Bestand 686/974.
  • 61. On the development of civil disobedience among French helpers see Semelin 2013, 631-647. On the role of national resistance movements in the emergence of assistance to the persecuted see Oliner 1988, 144.
  • 62. Jacobs to Gollwitzer, 2/3 Dec. 1940, EZA, Bestand 686/3259.
  • 63. Jacobs 1983, 46-57.
  • 64. In May 1934 Germany's workers and employers were incorporated into the so-called German Labor Front; their activities would henceforth be supervised by the state. Starting in 1935, persons who were Jews or «first degree hybrids» (Mischlinge ersten Grades) were not allowed membership in this organization. See Rohn 2012.
  • 65. Jacobs 1983, 27. In 1944, the gross salary of a single female textile worker was 76 reichmarks; even an unmarried female concentration camp supervisor only received 185.68 reichmarks. See Mailänder 2009, 100.

Cite this item

Beer Suzanne, Aid Offered Jews in Nazi Germany: Research Approaches, Methods, and Problems, Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 22 September, 2014, accessed 17/05/2021,, ISSN 1961-9898
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