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4:15 p.m. - 2012-02-25
I finished Le sang des autres today and suddenly understand WWII better than I ever did before, even when I when I was listening to Mme. Bernard's stories, when I walked in the fields of white crosses as far as the eye could see at Amiens, when I practiced piano at MIT in the same building where my grandmother had worked doing some sort of secret "radio research" during the war.

I'd never understood pacifism or how an entire continent could look the other way while the Germans exterminated 11 million people. I've never understood how a nation could be convinced that murdering 11 million people was OK. I suppose that the way history is taught in American schools, we're left with the impression that the Holocaust was due to an evil and bloodthirstiness unique to Germans. Of course you only have to watch a video of the Rodney King beating to know this isn't so. In Le sang des autres, when Helene uses his parents' connections to get Jean sent back from the front to a safer assignment, I understood. And when the book describes the flight of Parisians to the country -- no gas for the cars, no food for children -- and the fear and empty streets in occupied Paris, I understood why people collaborated. There is one terrible scene where Helene watches a Jewish mother and child separated as the Parisian Jews are rounded up; the mother runs after the children's bus screaming "Ruth, Ruth" and Helene decides to join the resistance.

I actually didn't really read that part; I can't stand to think about if it was my Mar and Cashy on that bus; it makes me feel like I can't breathe. I try not to imagine how it would have felt to be a Jewish mother, but if I had been a French mother, or a German mother, I know exactly what I would have done to combat the Nazis and the round-up of Jews: nothing. Probably nothing. If there was a chance my children could be harmed or killed because of something I did, I wouldn't do it.



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