Way, way back, when I was posting to this blog pretty much every day, I wrote a blog wondering about how people react in situation where others are being mistreated.
That seemed to be the theme of the last weekend and the answers were mixed.
I watched The Hours several times over the last couple years and finally, last week, read the book. Of course, I had to begin Mrs. Dalloway immediately after just to see the influence it had on The Hours (turns out, it was quite a bit. It’s very interesting.).
This led me to doing a little research on Virginia Woolf. I found a little biography of her on the Internet — I don’t know how accurate it was — that said, basically, that she was anti-semitic. But her husband was Jewish. And from all accounts, she loved him very much and they had as happy a marriage as one can have when one of the spouses is, well, kind of crazy. I cannot reconcile in my mind how an anti-Semite ends up married to a Jew, or how the Jew in that relationship would feel. Luckily for the Woolfs, they were British and not German. Virginia never had to make the truly difficult decision of whether to stand by Leonard Woolf under Adolf Hitler’s terrifying and evil reign.
Then on Sunday, my local paper ran an article about a book written by a local professor. I don’t have it in front of me and can’t remember the names of the people he wrote about, but one, apparently, was a well-known and respected German philosopher. Who was a Nazi. Not am Oskar Schindler kind of Nazi, either.
Here’s the kicker (and I absolutely am going to read this book): This philosopher was a university professor. In 1923, he had a female Jewish student with whom he had an affair. She managed to escape Germany and eventually became an American. The philosopher remained in Germany, became a Nazi and fired ever Jew under his influence at the university, including his own mentor — also a Jew.
The book, according to the article, is about the professor and his former lover. They reconnected after the war. She forgave him — mostly. And I just don’t get it.
I get how she could forgive. Sometimes, it’s better for one’s own peace of mind to forgive those who did bad things. But how does a person go from loving and respecting people from a certain ethnic or religious or whatever group to hating and persecuting those same people?
Is the problem that people are more likely to go with what’s popular over what’s right? Is it that people are afraid? Or is it that people — this professor and philosopher — are just evil at heart and need an excuse to let it all hang out?
And what does all of this say about the world we live in?
And, as if that all weren’t enough, PBS played The Diary of Anne Frank Sunday night. I only watched a little bit of it. Chris wanted to watch Dirty Jobs and I was going to fall asleep, anyway. Plus, I’ve read the book and have heard the play (which is what I assume the movie was based on) takes a lot of liberties and I don’t think I would like to see that. Chris told me he’d never heard of Anne Frank. I tried to explain who she was and why she mattered. He only half listened to what I said.
A NOTE: After writing this, I looked up more information about Virginia Woolf. It seems the anti-Semite claims stem from a single passage she wrote in one of her journals, and do not seem to represent her whole view on the subject. According to Wikipedia, at least (not the best source of information, but still …), she was horrified by the Nazi regime.