Monday, April 28, 2008

The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers & Their Stories of Courage by Mark Klempner

Imagine that you live in the Netherlands in 1940. The German Army has invaded your country and taken over your government. At first, the spokesmen for the new regime promise that you will be able to continue with your life as it has been for your ancestry is the same as theirs. In fact, life will be better because they will clean up the bad influences in your society. Do you feel reassured? Do you ignore that Hitler had promised to honor Dutch neutrality just days before the invasion? Do you ignore the firebombing of Rotterdam? Do you ignore the past seven years of news from Germany? Why do some people have a J on their newly issued citizenship cards?

According to Mark Klempner in The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers & Their Stories of Courage, a small number of Dutch citizens knew exactly what they should do in 1940. There was no way that they would sit still and comply with restrictions. They would resist and undermine the Nazi authorities by hiding Jewish children in their homes or helping transport them to Dutch farms to be kept or shuttled out of the country. They may or may not have considered the dangers. Not to act would have been immoral.

In his book, Klempner presents the stories of ten Dutch resisters whom he interviewed in 1996. They risked their freedom and lives daily by carrying children on bicycles, on trains, or through alleys. Some stole identification or ration cards from municipal offices. Others took food and money to the foster parents who kept the children. Some kept children either in attics or pretended that they were their own. All found the resistance thrilling and fulfilling. Most report that in a strange way that the war years were the best in their lives.

The Heart Has Reason is about more than just World War II. Klempner questioned his subjects about their lives after the war. Many have worked for other causes. In their responses, they portray the world as a dangerous place filled with evil that has to be faced and defeated. They are all pragmatists, who point out the shallowness of the post-war "never again" pledge from world governments. There have many "holocausts" since.

Most readers will find the rescuers' stories inspiring and Klempner's analysis thought provoking. They may feel a bet remiss for not doing more themselves. The Heart Has Reasons would make an interesting book discussion club choice.

Klempner, Mark. The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers & Their Stories of Courage. Pilgrim Press, 2006. ISBN 0829816992

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My book club is going to read this book. You may like to know that there is a reading group guide that may be found at the book's website: