Friday, December 31, 2010

Blog 11 -- Double Victims of life and reputation

I read Irene Nemerovsky’s Suite Francaise, an excellent book she never completed because she was in Auschwitz and died there of typhus (Nazi file) or the gas chamber (Holocaust file). In either case she was sent there because her family had converted to Catholicism and abandoned their Jewish identity. To the Nazis that was irrelevant. It was the parental Jewishness that stained her birth. Nor did it matter to the Nazis that she wrote occasionally for anti-Semitic publications although she was not a self-hating Jew. Reading Suite Francaise reveals nothing of her views on Jews. The Germans in her novel are occupiers. They are hated for occupying France and not much different than the people in the occupied villages. It is a story of the stupidity of war and the stupidity of those who get caught up in war, as conquerors or as conquered. It is also sympathetic to all its victims on both sides. She brings out the humanness that is often masked by our tendency to think in ideological terms of good and bad. Nemerovsky was killed not because her family tried to assimilate nor did they do anything offensive. She died because she was of Jewish ancestry and that was sufficient for the Final Solution. She is no less a victim of the Holocaust just because she accepted the Catholicism her parents imposed on her from birth. Nor does it make her a lesser victim because she turned her back on her Jewish origins and saw herself as a Catholic sharing their European views (including a tolerance of anti-Semitism) then current in the 1920s and 1930s.

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