A ‘one size fits all” book review? You decide. In recent months I have somehow (certainly not on purpose) been immersed in books related, more or less to the Holocaust. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult; In A Dark Wood by Marcel Moring; Emperor of Lies by Sem-Sandberg; By the Rivers of Babylon by Nelson DeMille; Night Falls On The City by Sarah Gainham, to name a few that stick in my mind. The plot, the characters, the story line, the locale all vary from book to book, but the Holocaust underlies them all.
Central to this underlying theme is the incredible suffering of Jews during World War II, at the hands of the Nazis, the Austrians, the French, the Poles, the Russians, pick a nationality of your choice.
A Tunisian acquaintance once asked me if I believed in the Holocaust. My initial answer was trite “What’s not to believe?” Then he said “But 6 million dead?” I opined I would probably be more comfortable with 5, 978,612 since I’ve always been a bit leery of round numbers. Then I added “What difference does it make? 500,000, 2,000,000, 4,000,000, 6,000,000? It is not the numbers that are important, it is the fact. If you don’t like the numbers, make up your own, but you cannot reasonably deny the fact that it happened. In so many villages, towns, farms, cities, countries – there is just no room for denial.
Each of these books – novels, I admit – goes to the very heart of this and to read even one should be sufficient to erase any doubt.
And no, before you ask, I’m not Jewish. I would even admit that, from time to time I tire of reading about it. And yet I realize full well that the story must be told over and over lest we forget. I only regret there has been no such outcry and continuing reminders about Cambodia in the 1970’s.
Be careful; this book, and all the others mentioned, are worth reading. But don’t read them in a short time span. I have found myself becoming too complacent about the subject matter. Space them out so that the message continues to reverberate over years and not just months. And realize that you will never understand what Israel is all about and what it means in today’s world until you have done so.