So I will look on the bright side and point out that, had I not had a fever yesterday, I probably would never have turned on the television and seen that Judgment at Nuremburg was on public broadcasting last night.
I had seen this a very long time ago and it had been edited to pieces to fit TV, as they used to do in the 60s and 70s, and shown very late at night. Since then it has not crossed my path. The PBS showing had restored the film to its original length.
The movie was probably as uncomfortable for people to watch in 1961 as Schindler’s List was for us to watch in 1993. Though it is mild by today’s standard, I have to remember it was speaking to people who had, for the most part, lived through the rise of the Third Reich. It’s reminder that the whole world was in part responsible for allowing the atrocities of the Holocaust had to have made everyone squirm a little.
I say this from the safety of having been born in 1957 and provided with the kind of 20/20 vision experiencing it as “history” affords. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t squirm.
The usual reaction to references to the Holocaust is “how could those people have been so gullible,” hinting that there was a measure of acquiescence on the part of the German citizenry that didn’t exist anywhere else, and certainly not in this day and age.
I’m not so sure.
And I speak from a personal standpoint, not as an indictment of anyone else. Because when I see references to the Holocaust I get a sick worry that I would not have had the courage, the knowledge, the sense of sacrifice to stand up against the Third Reich.
Certainly I’d like to think I would. Of course, I was raised in a post-war climate and during the 60s when we were taught a supposedly new idea called “equality.” Yet a mere one generation removed from mine could grasp that having to bulldoze human bodies into a pit because the slaughter was so great was a bad thing, yet could not see the horrors racism had caused in their own country.
It makes me shudder to think that my sanctimonious cries of “I would never do that” depend upon the happenstance of my birth date and location.
But I have to wonder, if I had been born in my father’s generation in Germany, lived through the poverty that was the result of World War I; if in my teenage years I was told in school by adults in charge that my poverty was the result of the greed of a certain segment of the population I saw every day living a better life than I; if all I heard over and over and over was how great and superior my family and I were over them; if all I heard and saw was the Nazi message every single day, at the most crucial and vulnerable time in my life, what would I have done when people started disappearing?
I know what Sisiggy in 2006 Virginia would do. But I’m not so sure about Sisiggy in 1933
I don’t think anyone can say what they would or would not have done. Because in this day and age, we are still selective as to who we think is worthy of our sympathy and aid and who is not. We still have a price as to how far we will go to right a wrong. (It’s bizarre to me that to protect elephants you can no longer buy or sell ivory, but purchasing diamonds is commonplace because it’s only endangering humans.).
This is what happens when I’m feverish and miserable and watch a depressing movie. Angst, angst, angst. Happy Sisiggy will be on duty tomorrow, perhaps.