THE BOOK THIEF

 

It’s all Neuroticfitchmom’s fault.  A month or so ago she raved about this book.  I’m in favor of books that make one rave, so I stopped by the library and picked it up without even checking to see what it was about.

Generally I avoid Holocaust-related books and movies, because that is one of the few things that actually literally causes me to have nightmares.  I don’t know why.  It’s not a mystical ancestral memory or anything.  As far as I know, no relative of mine died in the Holocaust.  At that time they were all safely in the U.S., having been chased out of Russia by the Czar’s pogroms half a century earlier. You didn’t think Hitler was the first to think of murdering Jews as a tool of social and political control, did you?

The Book Thief is narrated by Death and traces the story of a girl who grows from child to young woman in Nazi Germany.  Her kindly foster father is hiding a Jew in the basement, to the family’s ever-increasing peril.  The girl suffers the deprivations common to war-time Germany, and through her eyes (and the eyes of Death), we see the systematic degradation, humiliation, starvation, torture, and finally murder of the Jews that were once the neighbors and friends of the people in her community. 

In a scene now burned into my brain, a parade of filthy, skeletal, hollow-eyed Jews are marched through the girl’s town, watched by the German citizens, some approving, some horrified but unable to intervene.  The kindly foster father, overcome with his own feelings, foolishly offers a crust of bread to an elderly man so weak he can barely stumble along.  Both the old Jew and the foster father are whipped in the street by a Nazi soldier. 

Now I’m glad I read the book even though the nightmares maybe coming, because this must not be forgotten, however unpleasant it is to hear about.  And I realized why I am so obsessed with the state of religious issues in the U.S.  Whenever political power or the lack thereof is attached to religion, the minority group is endangered. 

And I realized this is why I have such a viscerally negative reaction to proselytizers.  When someone tells me I’m going to hell because I’m not one of their group, I hear “we are better than you.”  It’s a short hop-skip from “we are better than you” to “you are not entitled to the same rights we have.”

I think, or at least hope, that the people who pester me with their religious tracts believe they are offering me something of value, and that they do so with love.  But the truth is, every time someone shoves a crucifix in my face I see swastikas in their eyes.

 

<HOLOCAUST>never again</HOLOCAUST>


EDIT: When I wrote this I was not aware of the distinction between a crucifix and a cross.  I thought the terms were interchangeable, but in fact I meant “cross.” Thanks to illgrindmyownthankyou for pointing out the error.

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28 thoughts on “

  1. P) Your welcome.
    Q) Her comment amused me
    QQ) I somewhat enjoyed your post, and I’m thinking it’s simply because I’m not the only one who feels that way, and not the only one who realizes that Jews have constantly been all rah’d against;[ Sad day, there. Well, in case something quite similar to Jew-Hate happens again….Anyone feel like housing a lowly Jew? ^_^

  2. Proselytizing by private individuals doesn’t cause quite as strong a reaction in me.  But anything that stinks of religion in government does, for similar reasons.

  3. I’m glad you read it.  I’m glad you enjoyed it.  It was painful for me as well.  I had to put it aside for almost a month before I could finish.  It made me sob for like an hour, body racking sobs.  Sigh….

  4. I see the world through the same lens as you now.  I don’t ever want to restrict anyone’s right to talk about things.  I don’t want to hamper anyone from finding a belief structure that provides them with solace and comfort.  The problem is that the belief that my way is the ‘right’ way becomes so pervasive and all consuming that devotees are quick to decide that everyone else’s way of finding solace and comfort is ‘wrong’.  This inevitably leads to a devaluation of others beliefs and ultimately of them.  All the times in history that religeon and political power have been entwined have been disaterous for some part of the population. 

  5. I think there’s a longer hop skip and a jump than you think.  Most of the faiths with active, organized proselytizing efforts are minority sects: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or independent Evangelical sects.  And, in spite of unambiguous Constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion and freedom of speech, the right to publicly proselyte has been severely restricted by various public entities for hundreds of years – primarily by communities whose predominant faith was in conflict with the proselytizing sect or who simply couldn’t be bothered.  It wasn’t until 2001 that the Supreme Court provided definitive precedent to guarantee these rights (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York v. Village of Stratton)
    Put differently, the folks that pester you in the streets have fought long and hard for the right to be there and represent, if anything, the freedoms we’re afforded in this country.  If you’re looking for swastikas, look in the eyes of the public servants and preachers who try to run them out of town.

  6. Very well stated.   God save us from those who think whatever they believe in is better than that which we believe.   The Nazis and the bible thumpers should be banned from our midst.

  7. It was indeed a terrible thing.I generally don’t have nightmares about real things, but real tragedies do tend to impact me emotionally when I’m reading/learning about them.Thank you for stopping by my site and thanks for the compliment! Feel free to drop in any time!

  8. The horror of the Holocaust must never be forgotten, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us to think about it.  Anti-Semites world-wide, try every way possible to get people to believe it never even happened.  The minute we look away, the minute we start to forget, it will happen again.

  9. I think education in general would assist in keeping the freedom of religion and equal rights.  Real education, not the processed work we use in standard high school literature.  I think that’s why I always encourage reading. 
    Very excellent post

  10. I’m not sure why, but the one thing my eldest really wanted to go to in DC was the Holocaust museum. We didn’t get there. I also bought the book based on Neuroticfitchmom and then loaned it to a friend since I was off on “vacation.” It’s high on my list, but I know it will be one of “those” books, that will haunt me. As a member of another “religious” minority (non-believer/atheist/humanist) I share many of your fears and thoughts.

  11. I’m curious as to why, when you see a “cruxifix” you also see a swastika. Why is there the assumption that Hitler was a “christian”? Hitler & the nazi’s were political extremists, even today who in their right mind wants to be associated with anything at all related to them.  It seems to me the only “political” party trying to denounce the Holcaust are the radical muslims. They are the group at the forefront in the middle east saying the holocaust never happened. Most people who claim to be “christians” realize how closely tied to the Jewish people we are. Our country was founded on many beliefs, this country has a distinct Judo-Christian heritage that is no longer evident or even acknowledge. BTW a cruxifix is only found in roman catholic churches, mainline protestant churches have crosses without a body hanging from them. And for the record I don’t feel I am better then anyone else, and those bumper stickers about being saved are not exactly theologically correct either!

  12. Yeah, if someone really did shove a crucifix in your face, I hope you would see your own reflection in his eyes, because that would mean you weren’t a vampire.
    On the other hand, if you WERE a vampire, you probably wouldn’t have to worry about coming up with a snappy response to their evangelical overtures. 
    Mormons don’t use crosses or crucifixes.  We find the nametags work just fine.

  13. I went to the Holocaust museum in D.C. and it was a huge mistake – the museum trip, that is. I couldn’t sleep for days… it left me so sick and depressed. This may be an indication of the museum’s “success,” but it was a truly awful experience – although educational, of course!

  14. I believe we think pretty much alike in this area, despite what I think are different religious backgrounds.  Whenever I dare to scan the pages of “Watchtower Awake,” which is only about half a page once every 10 years or so, I see “Hate,” not “Love.”
    And RYC (at blip32962):  I share the same concern.

  15. I thought a cross and a crucifix were the same thing, too. In my sophomore year in high school, my art teacher “surprised” us with a film about the Holocaust. Apparently I had missed the significance of it until seeing that movie. I couldn’t stay. I started sobbing uncontrollably and left the room–the school, in fact, since I lived next door, and barely made it home before vomiting. I was sick to my stomach and depressed for days. Ironically, my art teacher did not seem to understand my reaction. He was angry with me and gave me an “F” for the quarter as a result of my leaving. Twenty years later, I was stunned to sit in a college classroom and listen to a group of young women challenge the social studies professor about whether or not the holocaust really happened. These would be the same woman who vocally ridiculed Hilary Clinton and wondered why anyone would vote for a woman. That’s the only time I’ve felt as sickened as I did that first time I realized the horror of the holocaust. That was a mere dozen years ago. I’ve been puzzled about the reaction to 9/11, the “God Bless America” fervor that has since prevailed. Wasn’t it religious zealotry that created the terrorists behind 9/11? Does anyone else see that?

  16. a)I can see through most proselytizers (pardon sp if its wrong), who are mostly hypocrites feeling shame or guilt for the many worse things (on their religion’s badness scale) than I have. I have one at work I literally want to punch sometimes.
    b)weird… i love holocaust films and books, I can never get enough information about it, even the boring documentaries (and whoo boy, they’re out there)

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