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Accommodation, Collaboration, and Resistance in Poland, 1939-1947

This paper was presented as the First Dekaban Memorial Lecture delivered at St. Mary’s College of Ave Maria University on March 3, 2002.

A human being virtually always has a choice of how to conduct himself. Depending on the circumstances and conditions, a man can choose to behave actively or passively, atrociously or decently, and, exceptionally, even heroically. Moreover, one can display in succession any or all of the aforementioned characteristics. The innate attributes and handicaps of an individual inform the choices but do not guarantee the outcomes. That means that, at a certain point, a decent human being can behave atrociously, and vice versa. This concerns in particular human behavior in the extremity of terror. However, rather than suggesting that human behavior is arbitrary and unpredictable, I would like to propose that human behavior is a result of choices.

How I arrived at these conclusions is the topic of the present discussion. I shall discuss first the methodology of my inquiry and then I shall elaborate on my discoveries.

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