Sunday, July 27, 2014

Disproportionate Force

An excerpt from the novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return

In September 1938 Chamberlain signed the pact with Hitler. To bolster the conviction that Europe would be saved by the appeasement agreement, French PM Daladier hailed Goering as “a man one can do politics with.” Why not a nice dinner, as well, and perhaps un cigar, monsieur? October 1, 1938, The Times praised the “Declaration of Peace in Munich,” concluding that the Munich conference “has not only banished the danger of war over the future of Czechoslovakia,” but it “has speeded up a new and a better era in European relationships.” Thank God for The Grace of Times! Upon his return, proud and popular Chamberlain waved the paper he signed with Hitler and declared he had brought “peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”

And Professor Shimeoni, for one, would have made his way to Heston Airport and applauded him upon his return, because he is a man of hope and peace.

Thus, he told himself, “I cannot blame the passively collaborating German, and can only admire and feel a deep love for those who dared to see and those that dared to act.” Particularly he thought of Wickard von Bredow, as the example of exceptional heroism: As County Officer (Landrat), he received the order, November 9, 1938, to burn down the synagogue in the East Prussian town of Shirwindt, just like all the synagogues in Germany that were to be destroyed during the next few hours. Von Bredow put on his German Army uniform, said goodbye to his wife, and, as Martin Gilbert reports, declared: “I am going to the synagogue to prevent one of the greatest crimes in my district.” He knew he risked his life and that he could be sent to a concentration camp, but added, “I have to do this.”

When the SA, SS and Party members arrived to set the synagogue on fire, he stood in front of the synagogue, loaded his revolver in front of the group, showing them that they could only get into the building over the dead body of the Landrat. The synagogue in Shirwindt was the only one in the district not destroyed.

Eli Shimeoni wondered, “Would I have dared to trespass the prohibitions, would I have dared to buy from a Jewish store? I hope so, but the honesty that fears evoke, makes me wonder. If I would have been a 1938 German, may I not have looked the other way, avoiding the shame and the guilt gazing back at me in the store owner’s eyes of shattered glass.”

More than 22,000 German civilians were killed in the allied bombings of Dresden in February 1945.

Could their lives have been spared (as well as millions of others), if Europe would have applied 'disproportionate' force in 1938, rather than futile appeasement of evil?

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