Thursday, January 14, 2010

Speaking of Evil: Something Uplifting

If you're like me, you grew up hearing about five names significant to WWII: Hitler, Mussolini, FDR, Stalin, and a little Dutch Jewish girl named Anne Frank. While nobody reads Mein Kampf anymore (it's virtually unreadable, anyway), and FDR's fireside chats aren't widely, or even narrowly, read, Anne Frank's diary is required reading for school children all over the country, perhaps the world.

Before young Anne was taken off to one of the many prisons within that wicked archipelago of concentration camps and gulags that dotted Europe in the 30's and 40's, she was secreted away by a few brave souls, one of whom was Miep Gies (pronounced "Meep Khees"). (Hiding people in WWII always reminds me of a joke about a diminutive Eastern European, the punchline of which is "can you cache a small Czech.") Miep died on Monday of this week, at the ripe old age of 100. The obituary is here.

Some tidbits about Ms. Gies: She never read the diary prior to giving it to Otto Frank, Anne's father, out of respect for Anne's privacy. It turns out this concern, while admirable, may have been misplaced as the diary would have "incriminated" a number of those helping Anne and other Jews.

I love this quote from Gies, which she apparently wrote to the AP via email shortly before her 100th birthday, wherein she resists accolades: "Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary." Bravery and humility are anything but ordinary.

People in this space may come down differently on the means to reduce the number of abortions in this country. But I think we can all agree that people like Miep Gies, and the countless other brave souls who nobody's ever heard of, who resisted Nazi and Soviet tyranny are to be admired and emulated.


Hal Brunson said...

Actually, this post goes straight to the prior post on the abortion doctor. "Deceptions" and "lies" to protect holocaust Jews were not evil, rather righteous acts of heroism. This is the essence of Kierkegaard's "knight of infinite resignation" and "teleological suspension of the ethical" when, as in the cases of those protecting WWII Jews, two ethical principles collided, viz, "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not lie"; the protecters rightly determined that the lesser ethical principle in deceiving the Gestapo and hiding ethnic Jews - "thou shalt not lie" - could be righteously sacrificed in deference to the higher moral principle - "thou shalt not kill" - the Nazi crime. This was Rahab's dilemma as well when she lied about Joshua and Caleb. And isn't there a sixth name you heard pertinent to WWII, some fellow named "Winston"? Nice post.

Shane said...

I had a terrible history teacher, I suppose, Hal. An embarrassing omission, indeed.