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Altruism: The Importance of being Asked. The Rescue of Jews in Nazi Europe

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  • Federico Varese

    () (Nuffield College, Oxford)

  • Meir Yaish

    () (Nuffield College, Oxford)

Abstract

The rescue of persecuted minorities - such as the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe - is seen in this paper as taking place in a peculiar market. In such a market rescuers face at least two dilemmas. Firstly, they might be willing to help but be uncertain how to go about rescuing. Secondly, they might be unsure over the nature of the request to help. To make a mistake and help "wrong" person could be very costly. Following secondary analysis of the APPBI data on those who rescued Jews (rescuers) and those who did not (non-rescuers) during the Nazi occupation of Europe we find that (a) the first dilemma was solved by a direct request for help from those in need; (b) the second dilemma was solved by helping those who were either known to the rescuers, or sent by a trusted mediators. We thus conclude that the unobserved acts of altruism in society do not account for the potential acts of altruism human beings are capable of. If the market for altruism works more efficiently, more people might be helped.

Suggested Citation

  • Federico Varese & Meir Yaish, 1998. "Altruism: The Importance of being Asked. The Rescue of Jews in Nazi Europe," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _024, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_024
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/2260/24varese.pdf
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    1. Voth, Hans-Joachim, 1998. "Time and Work in Eighteenth-Century London," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(01), pages 29-58, March.
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    3. Paul David, 1997. "Path Dependence and the Quest for Historical Economics: One More chorus of Ballad of QWERTY," Economics Series Working Papers 1997-W20, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Dan H. Andersen & Hans-Joachim Voth, 1997. "Neutrality and Mediterranean Shipping Under Danish Flag, 1750-1807," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _018, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    5. Hans-Joachim Voth & Timothy Leunig, 1996. "Did smallpox reduce height? Stature and the standard of living in London, 1770-1873," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 49(3), pages 541-560, August.
    6. David M. Engstrom, 1997. "The Economic Determinants of Ethnic Segregation in Post-War Britain," Economics Series Working Papers 1997-W12, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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