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4.07.2009

suite française, last post

If the novel Suite Française is not your cup of tea, I highly recommend reading the transcripts of the author's notebook and the letters appended to the novel. They are, as commenter Cid says here, heart-wrenching.

Némirovsky's husband continues to write his wife's publisher and anyone who he believes can help, becoming increasingly frantic, desperate to know the whereabouts of his beloved wife. If her release is not possible, he concedes, can he send her a package? Medication? Can he get word to her that the children are safe? Can he just know where she is? He says he can neither sleep nor eat, as he is so consumed with worry for her.

In his letters, he lists the many logical reasons that his wife should be spared, but none of those matter. It doesn't matter that she was never political. It doesn't matter that she converted to Catholicism. None of that matters.

While he writes, trying to get information, trying to save her, she is already at Auschwitz.

She is already dead.

Soon, he will be, too.

When the war ends and the concentration camps are liberated, Némirovsky's two daughters, now out of hiding, go to the Paris train station where survivors are returning. Every day, they stand in the station, holding signs with their names, waiting and hoping.

* * * *

Amid the carnage of the 20th Century, the Holocaust is not unique in size or scope, and amazingly, is only one of the many genocides and political massacres with victims numbering in the millions. Yet it is the one massacre that I know would have happened to me, had I lived in Europe at the time. It's the one my parents or grandparents would have perished in, had my great-grandparents not escaped the pogroms of Russia a generation earlier.

As I mentioned here, when I blogged about the movie "Fugitive Pieces," my Holocaust education is over, having been absorbed into my bones, my DNA.

But every once in a while, something slips through my defensive wall, like this book has. When it does, it effects me in a visceral way. My stomach knots, my throat clenches. I have nightmares.

Now, in Israel, Jews are acting like Nazis.

The details differ, but they always do. The means are different, but the end results are the same.

There's a semi-apocryphal story that the political satirist Tom Lehrer declared irony dead when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. Surely there can be no irony more cruel, more ridiculous, more head-spinning, more insane, and simply more horrifying, than a state founded as reparations for the Holocaust committing genocide.

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