Sunday, March 7, 2010
My husband recently purchased a box set DVD version of the fantastic 1973 miniseries documentary, The World At War. This take on World War II may not be as well-produced as the more recent Ken Burns version on the same subject, but it was made less than thirty years after the war's end. Many of the subjects interviewed for the film are actual eyewitnesses, participants in what transpired during that time. The memories of all they endured are fresh, they haven't yet aged enough to have forgotten precious details. I think all this makes this particular documentary a real treasure, indeed.
Alan has been viewing the DVDs in our basement each time he works out. This morning I joined him there and watched today's installment as I ran on the treadmill. Today's chapter was titled, "Inside the Third Reich: Germany 1940-1944," and I knew before I hit mile two that I was going to write about it here today.
They interviewed a German housewife, Hertha Beese, who described opening her door one evening and discovering a Jewish couple standing there, asking for her help. She said from that moment forward she became part of this "invisible community" that helped so many Jews escape a horrible fate.
"One day, a friend of ours who used to collect food cards for these Jews, came to me with another woman with dyed blonde hair. I can see her sitting there now, twisting her wedding ring and telling me that it wouldn't be for long, that she would help me in the house, and her husband need never go out. He would live in the cellar or wherever."
Not knowing what to do, Cristabel consulted her neighbor and trusted friend, Carl, who told her the risk to herself and her family was far too great, and to forget the whole idea of helping this Jewish couple.
Alan finished his work out, returned the TV to the local news, handed me the remote, and went back upstairs. I kept pounding out my miles, watching the weather forecast. But I just couldn't shake the image of Christabel's sad, regretful face from my mind. I wondered what I would've done if I were in her shoes, back in 1940's Germany. Would I have taken-in someone, anyone who came to me for help, even if it meant my own (and my family's) demise? Oh, I hope so. I pray that I would be so strong, but could I?
I hope none of us are ever forced to make this kind of unthinkable decision ourselves. But if you did, how would you choose? Could you live with your decision?
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- Welcome to my blog! I'm Joan, a former actress attempting to reconnect with my first love of writing. Join me as I ponder my Irish dad, sweet grandma, GPS dependency, hatred of the Hallmark channel, and other insightful topics that make you go, "Hmmm..."
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