More on Ivan Beltrami

They said: “How could we not?” We replied, “But so few acted. Were you kinder or braver?” They answered, “No, we’re ordinary–we just did what a human being is supposed to do.”

When I doubted aloud that I could have done what the rescuers had done, their reply was some version of “I never would have thought I could do this.” They saw themselves not as heroes but as ordinary people. As Johtje Vos, a Dutch rescuer, explained: “We are certainly not heroes, because we didn’t sit at he table when the misery started and say, ‘OK, now we are going to risk our lives and to save some people.”

The rescuers are being more than humble. They are telling me something about myself. If I view them as extraordinary, then I imply that compassion, empathy and responsibility for one another is exceptional and that indifference is normal.



Ivan Beltrami (helmet) in 1944
Ivan Beltrami commanded underground forces whose mission was to pursue Nazi collaborators.