Sunday, August 02, 2020

The State of Our Union


I always read in bed at night, and last week I started reading Lilac Girls, a debut novel about three women during WWII. It seemed clear, given the setting, that one or more of them would be in peril at some point, and I hoped the book wouldn't be too suspenseful. I don't handle suspense well.

Last night I was introduced to the third woman, a young medical student in Germany. The year is 1939. She has been taught (brainwashed) that Jews are bad people who want to corner the market on law and medical jobs, and she has a real aversion to them. Her father does not, but her mother does. Lists are posted in public places (there is a name for these lists) of Aryans who shop in stores owned by Jews, and those on the list are ostracized, and sometimes arrested. Meanwhile, Jews were being pulled out of their homes, and all their possessions were either looted by the SS or spread out on tables in the street and sold for cheap. 

There was such a horrible divide between the followers of the Fuhrer and those who had compassion for the Jews and felt the Fuhrer was a dangerous man. (The book, thus far, didn't even mention the others who were persecuted and killed, such as homosexuals and the disabled, which I believe happened before they turned on the Jews.) People had to be careful of what they said in public. Strangers sniped at one another in stores. Marriages and friendships were strained. The divide produced a pervasive atmosphere of suspicion, animosity and lurking violence. It reminded me of the situation building in the U.S., and I had to abandon the book permanently. It kept me awake for hours.

4 comments:

Indigo Bunting said...

Things are so incredibly frightening.

Susan said...

They certainly are. But your comments always cheer me--even this one.

Helen said...

I don't blame you; I can listen to True Crime podcasts, but I cannot watch movies about WWII (or any war, for that matter). The thought of mass hatred and violence is too frightening to contemplate.

Cedarwaxwing said...

I think you did the right thing, abandoning the book. You don't need to be reminded of what's going on in the US when reading fiction for goodness sake!

I think I might have that book on Kindle -- I certainly see it recommended to me a lot. Maybe I don't though, because I don't like WWII books -- our book group keeps on reading them.