Watching footage of WWII’s end gives me pause. I grew up in a world which pooh-poohed the Nazis, yet forgetting we’re looking through hindsight. It’s so easy to denounce their sympathizers, as well as those who failed to act. I expect, though, that many Dutch or French or Norse who went along with things simply thought they were doing the best they could. Were any of these folks punished? It’s hard to feel sympathy for those who turned families over to the Gestapo who were then brutalized, but what about the restauranteur who befriended a German officer? What about the German soldier who couldn’t care less about National Socialism, but like so many in my family, thought he was serving his country?
Then I turn this personal. The person I am would never have been part of the gleeful followers. But that’s only part off the equation. Knowing how things turn out, it’s easy to say “I would resist”. But, at that moment, in the madness that was Nazi Germany, or one the occupied countries, would I have had the bravery of a Bonhoeffer? Or would I have, politely, gone about my business, too afraid to speak? Perhaps simply hoping/waiting for the world to pivot back the other direction? I doubt I would’ve had the courage to speak out. Perhaps to quietly serve in the underground. From what I see, most of us suffer from risk aversion. Doing something that, not only puts our health and safety at risk, but our family’s as all? Starts to become harder to imagine.
I look and think those who did quiet acts of resistance, hiding Jews in their basement, forgetting about the car full of resistance fighters you just saw, passing along news, radio parts… This list goes on. Maybe but as glorious add some, but critical, really. It was the critical mass of these acts, ultimately, that fully ends these conflicts.