The new issue of *Psychiatric News* (Volume 45, Number 1) includes an
article: "Psychiatrist Sees Her Heroism as Just Doing 'Right Thing'" by
Here are some excerpts:
A psychiatrist who helped save some 100 Jews from the Nazis believes
that not only altruism and courage, but also prudence, are the stuff of
which heroes are made.
During the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, the
Germans threatened the Dutch with death if they helped Jews.
Nonetheless, Tina Strobos, M.D.--then a medical student in Amsterdam--
along with her mother, sometimes hid Jews in their home.
This way the Jews could make their way through the underground to more
Sometimes the Gestapo (the secret police of Nazi Germany) would bang on
the door of the house in which Strobos and her mother lived.
They'd then enter
the house, push Strobos or her mother into a chair,
and bark, "You're hiding Jews! You're going to jail."
They didn't say "concentration camp," although a number of Strobos'
friends whom the Nazis arrested were sent to concentration camps.
After that, they'd search the house.
"You know, we could be killed for this," Strobos' mother once commented
after the Gestapo had left.
"Of course I know," Strobos said.
Strobos also took news and ration stamps by bike--at great risk--to Jews
hidden on farms outside the city.
She was seized or questioned nine times by the Gestapo and once was
hurled against a wall and knocked unconscious.
Strobos not only survived these ordeals, but went on, after the war, to
receive a Fulbright scholarship, which enabled her to travel to the
United States and study child psychiatry.
After she became a psychiatrist, she remained in the
Today she is 89 years old and living in Rye, N.Y.
She retired from practicing psychiatry only last May.
She has been honored a number of times for having helped save the lives
of some 100 Jews--for instance, twice she has received a plaque from
Israel, and last fall she was honored by the Holocaust and Human Rights
Education Center, based in Purchase, N.Y.
In March 2001, the Psychiatric Society of Westchester sponsored an
ethics workshop. L. Mark Russakoff, M.D., then president of the society,
asked Strobos if she would participate in it since her experiences in
saving Jews underscored the importance of ethics in everyday life.
"We were awestruck by her humble, matter-of-fact relating of the
incredible actions she had taken," said Russakoff.
"It was inspiring to be with a person who has been confronted with such
a challenge and rose to the
The question, of course, is: why did she?
"Because that is what I would have liked to happen to me," she replied.
"It was the right thing."
However, she also talked about certain personality traits she had that
may have influenced her heroic behavior.
"I'm an altruistic person.
That is why I became a doctor, a psychiatrist.
The Dutch underground dissidents I was involved with, a group of 10, all
"One, for instance, was caught using a radio to send messages to
England. He was shot and killed."
Indeed, Strobos believes so strongly that altruistic behavior can be
taught that she tried to impart it to her own three children while they
were growing up.
Today all three work in helping professions--one son is a physician,
another a paramedic, and her daughter a
indications that her instruction paid off.
Moreover, her grandchildren do volunteer work with disadvantaged people--
perhaps further indication that heroic behavior can not only be taught,
but passed down through generations in a family.
In any event, whether altruistism or heroism is inherited, learned, or
both, Strobos was eager to emphasize that a lot of Dutch people--not just
she and her mother--put their lives on the line to help Jews.
"Fifteen thousand Jews were hidden throughout Amsterdam during the
German occupation," she declared.
"That took a lot of homes to hide them."
Indeed, several of the Dutch who helped Jews were the married couple and
some friends of theirs who hid Anne Frank and her family--just down the
street from where Strobos and her mother lived.
"No, we didn't know them," Strobos said.
But what so distresses her, Strobos added, is that
they were not in a
position to offer an escape hatch to the Franks when the Gestapo
She and her mother, in contrast, were able to offer an escape hatch to
their own fugitives when the Gestapo arrived.
When the Gestapo banged on the door, she and her mother would sound an
alarm bell, which the fugitives on the third floor of the house would hear.
The fugitives could then either hide in an attic recess that a carpenter
had surreptitiously built or scramble out of a window onto the roof and
make their way to an adjoining school.
The article is online at:
RESOURCES FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR NURSING HOMES OR HOSPICES, OR WHO ARE
FACING END-OF-LIFE CHALLENGES:
"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the
question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?'
But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time
when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor
popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it
--Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)