Moral dilemmas during war and afterwards
My Mum is born in 1920, my Dad in 1922. They were 20 and 18 when the war started over here in Holland. They met after the war and got married in 1947.
I often asked how it had been for them during the war, but neither of them wanted to tell much. I knew my father had been in a labor camp for several years. Occasionally he would tell a funny story that involved matches and farts, but that was it. Just that one story.
When a Dutch politician came into disrepute in 1978 because of his assumed membership of the Waffen SS my father told us that his best friend had lost his Dutch nationality because he became a member of the Waffen SS a mere couple of weeks before the war ended. They had told all the workers that were imprisoned and employed because of the Arbeitseinsatz that they were allowed to go home for a weekend when they became a member of this dreaded Waffen SS.
What I remember vividly is my father’s outrage that nobody seemed to understand what it did to young people who had been imprisoned for several years and then were given this carrot hanging out in front of them of a weekend home. His friend was very homesick and was shattered to pieces by the thought of going to his mother for a whole weekend, so he gave in.
I had to think about this story a lot while reading Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller”.
I don’t think that what my parents suffered during the war comes even close to what Picoult describes, but my father has given me such a great sense of circumstances and looking at sides from all directions, that I could understand the dilemmas of the main character perfectly.
The story is about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who discovers that a sweet old friend has been an SS-officer. To make things worse he asks her to help him die and to forgive him for all the horrible things he has done so many years ago. She comes into a moral split.
At times I could hardly read on, because the horror of the war and the extermination of the Jews is described into detail. But it’s such a profoundly human story. The in-depth description of the characters is sublime – as is the case in all Picoult’s books – and I really recommend reading this book.
No more war. When will we understand?