A couple of weeks ago I read the novel Girl at War by Sara Novic, and it made me realize that I was wrong about the Holocaust. It was not uniquely chilling as I thought. Only the scale of it perhaps. When I got to the description of Ana’s parents being killed, the prisoners standing around a pit and being shot one by one by soldiers so that they fell into their own grave, and they knew what was happening, I thought to myself that it was exactly the same. I could have been reading a description of something that happened in the Holocaust. Only the time and the people involved were different. This wasn’t that long ago, within my lifetime, so does that mean this is just part of human nature?
I almost didn’t finish reading the book that scene was so horrific to me, but it was a good book, and these sort of things deserve to be read and remembered, so I continued. That was actually the worst scene in the book. It wasn’t really about the horrors of war; it was about how you go on living after.
What strikes me the most is how ordinary their lives were. I feel like most Americans think things like that happen in foreign, far off places, that are inherently more dangerous, but they were living ordinary lives, so much like our own. There may have been small indications that things were going wrong, but how could anyone imagine?
Also, it’s not some foreign threat. It’s your own people who turn on you, who decide that you are the wrong ethnicity, or race, or religion, that you are no longer one of them, that you need to be exterminated.
And yet, as the book shows, somehow the survivors go on living. This is the world we live in.