If you were a Jew in the time of Holocaust, Richrd Rorty argues, your chances of being helped by your kind neighbors were greater if you lived in Denmark or Italy than if you lived in Belgium.
Rorty warns us how not to explain this difference: “A common way of describing this difference is by saying that many Danes and Italians showed a sense of human solidarity which many Belgians lacked,” Rorty (1984).
To say that Belgians lacked a sense of human solidarity is bound to be question-begging: But why did Belgians,who watched the Gestapo drag their Jewish neighbors away, fail to show such a human solidarity?
According to Rorty the answer doesn’t lie in such a terms as “inhumanity,” or “hardness of heart,” or “lack of sense of human solidarity,” but because the Belgians didn’t identify themselves with the Jews, one way or the other.
Take, for example, those Danes and those Italians:“Did they say, about their Jewish neighbors, that they deserved to be saved because they were fellow human beings? Perhaps sometimes they did, but surely they would usually, if queried, have used some parochial terms to explain why they were taking risks to protect a given Jew–for example, that this particular Jew was a fellow Milanese, or fellow Jutlander, or a fellow member of the same union or profession, or a fellow bocce player, or a fellow parent of small children,” Rorty.
But for Belgians, Jews rarely fell under those identifications. There are detailed historicosociological explanations for the relative infrequency among Belgians of fellowship-inspiring descriptions under which Jews could fall.
Simply put, there were lesser interactions and integrations between Belgians and Jews in the period when the trains were running to Auschwitz.
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