After reading tons of Holocaust Literature in my teens, I put it aside for decades. I didn’t go to WWII movies, and wasn’t pulled in the direction of Holocaust museums. Not so much a case of avoiding the horror, tragedy and evil so much as a feeling that I’d seen it, read it, knew enough about it.
I don’t remember the first Holocaust book I picked up a couple of years ago or why. It was probably a hand me down from a Canadian friend I often share books with. Whatever the reason, I was stuck. In a good way. I went on to read Those Who Save Us, Once We Were Brothers, The Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See, One Early Morning and others I can’t recall at the moment.
Just when I think I’ve read my last, the wonderful woman at Sefer v’Sefel, the used book store whose aisles I love to wander, a friend or Bookbub.com recommends a book I have to read. I’m no longer surprised at how many fascinating stories of human capabilities stretched to their outer limits and plunged to their depths and beyond there are or at the talented people imagining and writing about them.
I’m also not surprised that the heroes, damaged as they may be, in many of these books are women. Ours are not usually the stories of military bravery, though there are some of those now sneaking into general awareness, but more the stories of our hearts putting us at grave risk. Stories of using our wits and cunning for the sake of others, in spite of being left breathless at our own actions. Stories which don’t always have good endings for us but usually have happy endings for those we’ve helped at the cost of our lives or mental health.
When I look around at the actions of neo-Nazis in Europe and the U.S., rampant murder in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia and other places around the globe, I’m tempted to shake my head at the world into which I’ve brought children and they’ve in turn brought my grandchildren. But, as it turns out, our world has always been full of opportunities to sacrifice ourselves in the name of easing the pain and tragedy that results from the evil of a power-hungry, greedy, hate-infused minority.
The bravery that evil inspires in the breast of those who are involuntarily faced with its reality provides endless material for authors and hours of wonder and awe for readers.
I hope you’ll take a minute to join me in praying for a cessation of cruelty and hatred and the day when we, as authors, will have to search for other avenues of inspiration.