Tuesday 2 February 2016

Spaces of Blue: Courageous Responses to Fascism Week Two

"Even in the worst of times, there are people who care."
—Ervin Staub The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil

"The duty of Christians requires acts of resistance through weapons of the spirit.”

  —André Trocmé, Protestant minister at Le Chambon

"When you see the suffering it brings, you have to be mad, blind or a coward to resign yourself to the plague."

—Albert Camus The Plague

"We do not believe in the victory of the stronger, but the stronger in spirit."
Sophie Scholl 

"The following traits are commonly found in the majority of interviewed rescuers: a nurturing, loving home where children are taught caring values, altruistic parents or a caretaker as a role model for altruistic behaviour, tolerance for people who are different, independence, self reliance, self confidence, moderate self-esteem, a history of giving aid to the needy, a belief in common humanity, and the ability to act to act according to one's own values regardless of what others do."

    Patrick Henry, We Only Know Men: The Rescue of Jews in France during the Holocaust, The Catholic University of America Press, 2007.

Caroline Moorehead has generated a lot of positive buzz for her recent Village of Secrets  but Pierre Sauvage, the director of the powerful documentary of Weapons of the Spirit has written a withering and to my mind a persuasive critique.
I think the best book on this topic is A Good Place to Hide: How one French Community Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II by Peter Grose (2015)
Le Chambon sur Lignon

For my review of a new book, The Cost of Courage and the television series, Un Village Francais
 see the French Resistance

Carve Her Name with Pride (1958) is the true story of Violette Szabo, a heroine of the Second World War for her espionage activities on behalf of the British government. Born Violette Bushell (Virginia McKenna) to a French mother and an English father, she chances to meet Etienne Szabo (Alain Saury), a French officer, whom she later marries. They have a child, Tania, but Etienne is fatally wounded in the Battle of El Alamein. Violette is already contributing to the war effort at home, but soon discovers that her bi-lingual skills make her a potentially valuable member of England's Special Operations Executive, the country's wartime overseas espionage unit. She agrees to join and, after extensive training, is sent into France in the spring of 1944, on a mission to salvage a resistance unit in Rouen area. Szabo completes that mission successfully and returns home, intending to resume her life as a mother raising her daughter -- but she is offered a second mission in France, immediately after the Normandy landings, and accepts, with tragic consequences. ~ Bruce Eder

Anyone interested in reading a good novel on women who became members of the SOE might consider Simon Mawer's The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

What is a moral person to do in a time of savage immorality? That question tormented Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman of great distinction who actively opposed Hitler and the Nazis. His convictions cost him his life. The Nazis hanged him on April 9, 1945, less than a month before the end of the war.

Bonhoeffer’s last years, his participation in the German resistance and his moral struggle are dramatized in this film. More than just a biographical portrait, Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace sheds light on the little-known efforts of the German resistance. It brings to a wide audience the heroic rebellion of Bonhoeffer, a highly regarded Lutheran minister who could have kept his peace and saved his life on several occasions but instead paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

This is the true story of one remarkable man who outwitted Hitler and the Nazis to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other during World War II.

It is the story of Oskar Schindler who surfaced from the chaos of madness, spent millions bribing and paying off the SS and eventually risked his life to rescue the Schindler-Jews. Schindler rose to the highest level of humanity, walked through the bloody mud of the Holocaust without soiling his soul, his compassion, his respect for human life - and gave his Jews a second chance at life. He miraculously managed to do it and pulled it off by using the very same talents that made him a war profiteer - his flair for presentation, bribery, and grand gestures. 

To more than 1200 Jews Schindler was all that stood between them and death at the hands of the Nazis. A man full of flaws like the rest of us - the unlikeliest of all role models who started by earning millions as a war profiteer and ended by spending his last pfennig and risking his life to save his Jews. An ordinary man who even in the worst of circumstances did extraordinary things, matched by no one. He remained true to his Jews, the workers he referred to as my children. In the shadow of Auschwitz he kept the SS out and everyone alive.

Schindler and his wife Emilie Schindler were inspiring evidence of courage and human decency during the Holocaust. Emilie was not only a strong woman working alongside her husband but a heroine in her own right. She worked indefatigably to save the Schindler-Jews - a story to bear witness to goodness, love and compassion.

Today there are more than 7,000 descendants of the Schindler-Jews living in US and Europe, many in Israel. Before the Second World War, the Jewish population of Poland was 3.5 million. Today there are between 3,000 and 4,000 left.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
"Filmmaker Marc Rothemund utilizes long-buried historical records to reconstruct the last six days in the life of renowned German anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) in an Academy Award-nominated feature that earned star Julia Jentsch a Best Actress award at both the 2005 Lolas and the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. The year is 1943 and Adolf Hitler's devastating march across Europe has resulted in the formation of the White Rose, an underground resistance movement born in Munich and dedicated to the fall of the Third Reich. Despite being one of the only female members in the White Rose movement, Sophie Scholl's conviction is strong and her will unbreakable. Eventually arrested by the Gestapo for distributing pamphlets on campus alongside her brother Hans, Sophie boldly maintains her ground by calling for freedom and personal responsibility and never once backing down even in the face of certain, inescapable death." ~ Jason Buchanan

"Rosenstrasse (Margarethe von Trotta, 2003) is the true story, of one of the few attempts by Germans to launch protests against the Nazi dictatorship. When the Nazis arrested Jews, they did not arrest the Gentile (non-Jewish) husbands or wives who might happen to be married to them. Instead, the Gentile spouses were put under huge pressure from the Nazi State to divorce and abandon their spouses. Some did, but others did not. Some of the Gentile wives stuck to their husbands through thick and thin. When the Jewish men were held prisoner in a facility on Rosenstrasse, many of their wives gathered in the street outside and kept vigil. This eventually led to protest.

The scene where the women find their voices, and begin to protest what is going on, is one of the most electrifying in the current cinema. It should serve as a model for us all. We need to raise up our voices, and speak out as loudly as possible, against war, violence, racial prejudice and political imprisonment.
Historians today wonder, what might have happened if more Germans had launched non-violent protests against the Nazi regime. The Nazis were very sensitive to world opinion. They dreaded propaganda embarrassments. Apparently, it was the infamous German propagandist Goebbels himself who directed the Nazis' capitulation to the Rosenstrasse protest, fearing a publicity disaster for the Nazi regime.

Rosenstrasse benefits from a complex story structure. The plot is constructed out of flashbacks, like Citizen Kane. This allows a lot of different perspectives to come to bear on the material. It also constantly reminds us that the Nazis were ultimately defeated." Michael Grost

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