In the wake of genocide and mass violence, we are left with sharply drawn stereotypes of victims and violators. Invisible and often lost to history are the stories of rescuers in times of war, those unusual individuals who resist overwhelming tides of prejudice and risk their own and their families’ lives to rescue the “other,” the outcast, the identified enemy. Few in number but large in significance, it is critical to recognize and acknowledge these moral alternatives to the betrayal and brutality at loose in the community or nation. Such individuals force us to reassess the sweeping dehumanization, generalizations, and shaming that claim that all Hutus, Germans, Serbs, etc, bear collective responsibility for the atrocities committed in their names.
Rescuer research is intended to yield instructive insights that can inform efforts to cultivate altruistic behavior in anticipation of future mass violence. In scholarly literature, one reviewer found that rescuers had a strong ethic of caring, a capacity for empathy, and valued inclusiveness. Another observed that rescuers tend to think critically, tolerate risk, trust their own competence and intuition, and are changed by their actions. Svetlana Broz, a cardiologist and the granddaughter of Marshall Tito, who has collected and published numerous stories of rescue during the Bosnian War, reminds us that: “future generations should have a way of knowing that good people did exist.”