Monday, 13 October 2014

What We Can Be Truly Thankful For

 The second Monday of October is the Canadian day to celebrate Thanksgiving. I have been trying to think of what to write for this Thanksgiving.  I could write the usual litany of things I am thankful, shelter and food of course, being the obvious of all the big and small blessings I have in my life.  But I thought I would show you something else that I am thankful for and that is our safety and survival as a nation from the tyranny of Hitler.  Yes, I know it is a dark and gloomy topic and one that affected our family in a personal way in that my grandfather died in that war.  But there are always lessons we need not so much to be told but to be reminded of ....
 I and many others have always been curious about how much the ordinary citizens of Germany knew of the Holocaust during the war years.  This book, that I read recently, takes a look at this question and attempts an answer in novel form.

  I've been trying to think if I have read a novel before that is written from the point of view of people who are not Jewish and living in Nazi Germany.  I don't think so; therefore this is a first for me.
 I have been giving a lot of thought to this novel, Motherland, by Maria Hummel.  It was carefully well researched and, while dealing with horrible subject matter,  is wonderfully written.  Much of the story is from the point of view of Liesl, a young wife who suddenly has sole charge of three young children throughout the war years in Nazi Germany.  This family is presented as non political and we in fact, get the idea that they are not impressed with Hitler.
We follow Liesl's journey as she tries to be a good mother, keep her family fed and clothed all the while the world around her is literally coming apart at the seams.  Her paranoia, fears, and terror slowly and steadily mount as the story unfolds.  She has to cope with so much, the death of a child, fear for her husband's safety, the slow starvation that she and her children are enduring as the war drags on. Interwoven into all this is the infighting and fear of  neighbours; even old friends become suspicious and might even be dangerous. Trust disappears completely and with no one she can rely on, Liesl is alone and terrified, coping as best she can. Overriding all the domestic troubles is the constant threat of the party and in fact, anyone in authority.
When at the end of  the book, the American soldier, who Liesl is also terrified of, is interviewing her and asks what did she know (he's implying the Holocaust).  Liesl,  now in a daze, starved and grief-stricken, answers, I know nothing.  At this point I, the reader, has taken this horrible journey with her and think when she says this that it may be true. I hope against hope it is true.  I want it to be true.
 I think this was a very good author to make me feel like that.