“Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? It is God who has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.” These were the words of Anne Frank, the Dutch-Jewish girl whose diary entries have moved millions of people and will be forever etched in our memory.
In the last few days, new knowledge of the identity of the person who betrayed Anne’s family to the Nazis has been revealed. A new book titled “The Backyard of the Secret Annex” alleges that a Dutch-Jewish collaborator Ans van Dijk reported their hiding place after she herself had been captured by the Gestapo police. The claim is not new, but the author has brought to light new evidence he had heard from his father who had known van Dijk.
The immediate response in social media was critical and harsh. Most people seem to not be surprised that a Jew could turn over other Jews, and had even more such stories to tell. But I choose to look at the humane side of things: never judge someone until I have walked in their shoes.
Many years ago I watched a documentary film about two Jews – one of them a prisoner put to torturous forced labor at a Nazi concentration camp, and the other, his strict supervisor who did everything he could, to oppress him. Today they are good friends. And when the oppressed Jew was asked how he could look his former, cruel boss in the eyes, he answered simply: “I understand him. If I had been in his place I would have done exactly the same.”
My conclusion is simple: even if the new information is correct, and it was indeed a Jewish woman who turned in Anne Frank and her family, we must not judge people who are under such enormous pressure.
We can virtue signal about higher morals, tout the importance of democracy, lyrically express our views of a better world, but once we ourselves experience such a radical situation and find ourselves pressured into fearing for our lives, we will discover that our state of mind is radically transformed. Fear and death threat can bring us to think in ways we did not imagine we are capable of, and evoke deeds that detached from context, we may call “cruel”.
Posted on Facebook May 28th, 2018