Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I just finished reading an excellent, thought provoking novel – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. It’s a fable, based on reality. Based on the Holocaust.

I have been interested in the Holocaust since Mom gave me The Hiding Place at age twelve. She’d gone to a woman’s retreat at Camp Joy where the speaker was the woman who had played Corrie Ten Boom in the movie version of The Hiding Place. The actress autographed the book for me, and Mom brought it back home.

It changed my life.

My dad was a World War II history buff, so we had big, thick history books laying around all over the house when I was growing up. I’d even read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (a mighty big book) by the time I was twelve. But The Hiding Place was different. It incorporated my beliefs, my Christian beliefs, and showed what could happen, what did happen, when one woman faced down the entire Nazi regime.

After that, I was hooked. I read every thing on the Holocaust I could get my hands on. When my senior class visited the newly opened Holocaust Museum during our Washington D.C. class trip, I spent over three hours exploring the nooks and crannies. Eventually, my classmates dragged me away.

In college, I took an extra class – Holocaust: The History of Good and Evil. It was taught by a man whose parents survived the Holocaust. They both lost their respective spouses to the gas chambers, along with the rest of their families. After being released, they met and married.

The class opened my eyes. Even more. I practically swallowed Night by Elie Wiesel all in one sitting. I also read Primo Levi and Viktor Frankl along with a host of other survivor authors. My current library has a good percentage of Holocaust books.

And every year, at least once, I re-read The Hiding Place.

And I re-read the note that I sat down and wrote after finishing the book for the first time. I was only twelve years old. I always keep it with the book, so I won’t ever forget my first reaction.

Here it is:

A Pledge

When do I stop thinking about it? When do I stop trying to understand it? Thousands have tried to understand it, but only the very wise are intelligent enough to stop trying and just accept that it did happen.

Why am I so interested? I’m not even Jewish! Why is it so very important to me to study, to remember, to read about it as much as I can? Why do I want to keep the horrible, terrible memory alive? Why me?

Why do I think so much about it? No ancestor of mine was harmed, even so much as I come from a German line, but not so much as I could possibly hold myself responsible in any way. If I feel no actual blame and am not seeking vengeance - - am I just an interested, curious, casual observer?

No, I cannot be, because what I read, what I see, what I KNOW happened angers me, infuriates me, and make me hate the sin of people. Yet I know man is capable of such hideous sin. I, myself, could fall into this depravity.

If I am just angry, then there is no way to seek vengeance. If I feel blamed, there are no accusers. If I am just curious, there is no cause.

Why do I care? Why is the Holocaust so important to me? Why do I feel the need to know it inside and out, to someday write about it, burning into my mind, my soul?

Do I want to insure that it never happens again? Could it happen again? We say never – but it could.

Man has not changed. This is still a sinful world, and man still has a sin nature. This horrible man-made disaster could reoccur if…

If people don’t remember.

If the extermination of 6 million Jews isn’t thrust into their faces. If they are forced to take a moment of silence by their own consciences to remember what happened when man let go of all good and embraced evil with both arms.

And they can only remember is someone takes up a pen and the memory of innocent blood and writes a compelling story of a man, woman, and child who journeyed through Hitler’s fire, through Satan’s fire.

This book, novel, even perchance article is my dream. Is it unreachable? Maybe, but it’s mine.

If God wills, I will write this book and add my name to the list of people who vowed that “Never Again!” And we must never forget.

That is why I care. The person to remind them is me. That is why I wish to write.

Ann-Marie Trotter


Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

I was about to turn in for the night (yeah, past midnight) and then I saw that you posted!! Woooo, had to stop and read.
First, let me say that you were an amazing reader and writer at the tender age of 12!!
Next I feel the same way...just that we MUST NOT FORGET. I feel the draw, the urge to read, understand, learn, and remind others. If people don't know, it could happen again. (shudder) People need to see and understand the pain, the sin, the beyond-description-horrible conditions...
Eisenhower said that he himself would not have been able to believe such conditions existed if he had not seen it with his own eyes. He ordered all American troops to visit the camps, after they were discovered and stopped. He paid for American journalists to come in, write about, photgraph the Truth.
I just bought a new book about it, ironically. I'll get back to you with the title when I locate it again. Think I left it in the van earlier today.

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Oh, and I was able to go through the memorial in California, as a pre-teen. Someday I'll travel to the Washington DC one. And my kids will go with me.
We're studying American history right now, currently at the first World War.

janella said...

Every year Hononegah has a speaker in who is a holocaust survivor. looking forward to going next year. I did not want to embarrass Andrew this year. All Juniors attend the presentation. I will have to let you know next yr. IS always open to the public. Personally for me my interest came as a 5th grader touring the Anne Frank home.