The Heart Has Reasons by Mark Klempner

Foreward by Christopher R. Browning to The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage

The Holocaust has become universally recognized as the ultimate measure of radical evil. It confronts those who study it with the insurmountable task of trying to explain the existence of harm-doing on an unimaginable scale, and above all, the motivation and nature of the perpetrators. But if the Holocaust is a story with all too many perpetrators and victims and all too few heroes, the goodness of the rescuers is as difficult to explain as the evil of the perpetrators.

Rescue as part of national resistance, as in Denmark, or communal civil disobedience, as in Le Chambon, France, at least allows us to see the production of goodness as a group project, in which individuals acting in concert could find inspiration, support, and strength from one another. The individual rescuers, such as those in Holland who made their lonely decisions to risk everything to help strangers, acted with a moral autonomy that is both astonishing and humbling.

Without hyperbole or hagiographic fanfare, Klempner examines a small group of these remarkable Dutch rescuers, allowing us to hear them explain their lives in their own words and to sense the ethos in which they lived. The cumulative effect of their individual accounts is deeply moving, while simultaneously avoiding a false note of redemptive triumphalism. I have spent much of my professional career trying to put a human face on the ordinary men who committed acts of unspeakable evil. Like no other work I have read, The Heart Has Reasons puts a human face on those who committed acts of inestimable goodness.

©2009 Mark Klempner