Monday, October 29, 2007

Resisting the Anti-Humanity

A little over a month ago I mentioned that I was reading John Hersey's The Wall. Written in the form of a journal, it reveals the day-to-day events leading to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was not a quick read; I finished about a week ago. But it certainly is a thought provoking one.

It seems strange to be talking about a book which was published in 1950 when I was 12 years old. And at times I felt a bit guilty that I had not read it many years ago for its insights into the human condition. The scribe, one Noach Levinson, reveals to us both the best and the worst in human behavior; not only in the oppressors but also in the lives of the oppressed. This was not a spellbinder that one does not put down until reaching the end. I could only read a few entries at a time before I had to stop to think and digest what had just been revealed.

I offer one lengthy passage, hopefully not too long, that I felt was particularly moving. The scribe is writing about the events of November 4, 1942:

"Until recently I have persuaded myself that by one means or another. . .I could survive until the end of the war and a change in our affairs. About a week ago I surrendered that persuasion. I am now convinced that we are all to die. All, that is, but the barest handful – like those miraculous few who, when a ship has foundered far at sea, sometimes survive through a prodigy of endurance. . . . Naturally I shall continue to use every means I can find to delay my fate as long and ingeniously as possible, in the hope, at a maximum, that I may find myself among the handful on the ultimate raft, but principally, now, in the hope that I may contribute my share, no matter how trifling, to the defeat of the Anti-Humanity." (The Wall, p.425)

And that was how Levinson tells us that he has actively joined the resistance. And his predictions are true; only a very few of the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto ultimately survive. They are truly heroic yet they are also very lucky.

Some 57 years after The Wall was published, it still provides important lessons for us in the "modern" world for we see that there are still those among us who are just as oppressive as the perpetrators of the holocaust. Just as we say that we must never forget those who were slaughtered, we also must remember those who survived and reminded us of the depths to which man does sink. And we must look around us and see what we can contribute to both an awareness of and strategies to end genocide. What can we do to defeat the Anti-Humanity? If you have not read Hersey's book, you should. It is still in print and available.


And now I move on, back to a murder mystery. I have begun Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club.


Eric Valentine said...

The 'Wall' looks quite interesting Leon, it even appears the kind of book I could read, I will look for it at the library here. Thanks for sharing and the excerpt. :)

Leon said...

Thanks Eric. I hope you both find the book and find it as relevant as I did.