Sunday, August 02, 2020
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.