Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It was pretty poor timing for the season of good cheer

but the book I was reading and finished yesterday of a Christmas evening was a little short on belly laughs, seeing as how it was 'Schindler's Ark.' So whilst the rest of the nation was glued to which ever James Bond film was on yesterday, having finished the book I was looking up various Nazi war criminals to see what eventually became of them.

The sheer scale of what went on in my parents life time in Europe is too far beyond understanding (two million of the Holocaust victims were children), but where this book was really powerful for me was where it considers the actions of certain individuals...men like an SS guard at Plaszow who ensured a couple he had grown to know were on Schindler's list of workers destined for the safety of his factory at Brinnlitz, yet didn't apparently ask himself why if this couple were worth saving, the other Jews were not.

The book never produces a definitive answer as to why Oskar Schindler (and others like him who risked their own lives to save others)did what he did, although I did like the suggestion that he was by temperament an anarchist who loved to ridicule the system. A great example of this was his munitions factory which never produced a solitary shell, nor one single rocket casing. This in spite of being continually monitored by the Armaments Ministry, but thanks to the relentless trickery of his workers who would for example rig the temperature gauge of the furnace to read what should have been the correct temperature, whilst in fact the interior of the furnace was hundreds of degrees cooler, the factory always passed its inspections, and the inspectors would go away feeling sorry for all the terrible and inexplicable teething problems this poor man - Schindler - was experiencing in his factory.

So Schindler was later recognised as a Righteous Person - any non-Jew who saved Jewish lives in the second world war - and in 1962 had a tree planted in his name in the Avenue of the Righteous in Jerusalem. Righteous Person awards and medals have been given to the Norwegian and Danish resisters who helped Jews escape to Sweden, and to villages and families who hid, fed and helped Jews either to escape or to survive. By 1999 16,540 'righteous persons' had been honoured with this title. Over 5,000 are Polish, over 4,000 are Dutch, over 1,700 are French, over 1,200 are Ukrainian and over 1,000 are Belgian. 327 are German. 11 are British. People truly worthy of respect.

4 comments:

Deana said...

This is so dark maybe only Reidski will laugh with me but when the movie, "Schindler's List" came out David Mamet said it was "Like Mandingo for Jews".
Deana

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Nothing like a light read to enrich the atmosphere of Christmas... actually I admire you for putting your Xmas freetime to good use. It is so easy to get sucked in by all the forgettable festive entertainment... but I enjoyed watching "The Motorcycle Diaries" on Christmas Day night.

Moo said...

Happy New Year JJ xx

J.J said...

Deana!!! Your first comment here!!! And yes, Reidski certainly did laugh! Happy New Year - and get over here soon won't you please???

YP = that is SUCH a good film.

Moo - and to you too darling.