Sunday, February 03, 2008

Life, not fate

One of the most successful acts of resistance in the Third Reich is not well known. In 1943, when the Nazis were undecided about whether to deport and murder Jewish spouses of non-Jews, they tested the waters by rounding up nearly 2,000 Jewish men whose non-Jewish wives had already withstood considerable government pressure to divorce them. These wives spontaneously gathered in front of the building in the Rosenstrasse where their husbands were being held. For one long week they refused to leave the little square in central Berlin, despite the Gestapo machine guns trained upon them.

...[And] the police backed down. The men were released. They and their families survived. And in a country that devotes so much time and energy to commemorating the victims, these brave women remain anonymous; all that really marks their story is a small clay-colored memorial in a park that few Berliners know. Seeing it moves many to tears. But what’s tragic are not these heroes, but the fact that there were not more. Others were deterred less by the Nazi terror than by a much older message: heroic action is futile, and mostly ends in death, besides.

After all these years, isn’t it time to send a message to Germany’s children — and everyone else’s — that will help them to stand up against present evils as well as mourning past ones?
- Susan Neiman, who argues that Germany has chosen the wrong resistance heroes.

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