Wednesday 11 January 2017

Spaces of Blue: Week Two When Angels Fooled the World

"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

"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.

Le Chambon sur Lignon

For my reviews of the nonfiction, The Cost of Courage and the television series, Un Village Francais
 see the French Resistance and the compelling novel The Nightingale

Defying the Nazis traces the path of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife and—not so coincidentally—Artemis Joukowsky’s grandparents. In 1939, the couple was dispatched by the church to Europe, where they risked their lives to save others, perhaps most notably when Martha accompanied a boat full of refugee children across dangerous waters to safety in the United States.

See the Charlie Rose  interview with Joukowsky and Burns  

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. 
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.

A memorial concert reawakens the story of an artistic uprising in the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin, where a chorus of 150 inmates confronts the Nazis face-to-face and sings to them what they dare not say.

"Defiant Requiem is an incredible story of the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, wherein many talented Czech artists were imprisoned – and it specifically tells the story of one Czech composer, Raphael Schächter, who's idea it was to lead a performance of Verdi's "Requiem" inside the camp. And it tells the parallel story of music conductor Murry Sidlin who decades later went back to Terezin with the Orchestra of Terezin Remembrance, specifically to perform "Requiem" again, quite beautifully, this time with survivors from the camp. I don't really have the words – let me just say this story was completely new to me and had a profound impact on me, particularly the incredible interviews with the survivors.

When the film was over, the whole crowd stayed still and silent all the way through the final credit, before breaking out in applause. It was such a profound experience to be educated on something completely new relating to the Holocaust, and for the subject matter to be told with such depth and compassion, but also restraint. The story was sensational enough, the filmmakers wisely chose not to be manipulative (which would have been easy in this case) – they just told you and showed you this story with honesty, clarity and genuine beauty….This is what true documentary film making should always be like." A film-goer's review.

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.

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

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