In 1995, I taught a course in the literature of the Holocaust. It was the 50th anniversary of the days when thousands of war-weary Allied troops found themselves inexplicaby in the middle of hell having cut the wires that surrounded hundreds of Nazi concentration camps. We had survivors speak to us that semester, and camp liberators, most all of whom now are gone. We read a book a week, and somewhere around number eight or nine I hit a emotional wall that, for all practical purposes, is still there. I no longer hunger to read more about that horrible time.
I've been writing these holocaust memories because listening to Diet Eman tell her story once again, on tape, so many years later, was almost a new experience, the old one so far behind. Most of her story I'll never forget, having written it; but there were things--and I've been thinking them through ever since--that were either lost from my memory or in the torrent of stories she told me one week in June, 1992, the tape recorder whirring.
There was much I didn't know, still is, in fact, much I had to learn before I was ready to teach a course I could barely finish. I read more about what scholars call Hitler's "dejudification," his plans and his designs. And I read about other Rescuers, about who they were and why they acted when so many didn't.
The take-away from Corrie Ten Boom or Anne Frank or Diet Eman is pretty much the same to those who read the stories. What readers and viewers ask themselves is "would I have acted? what would I have done?" I don't know that anyone knows exactly and won't until stark need arises as it did in occupied Europe when "dejudification" began.
Leave it to scholars to try to determine motive and reason. Leave it to those who study the war to try to profile Rescuers. They too would like to answer that question--"would I do what Corrie die? what Diet did? what Mies did for the Frank family? Would I?
The scholarship says that of the groups of Dutch citizens living in the Netherlands in the first five years of the 1940s, the clan most clearly involved in every aspect of Resistance work was the Marxists, the communists, blood enemies of the Nazi fascists. Diet talked about them once in a while when specific projects could be coordinated--saving Allied pilots, for instance, or shepherding them out of the war zone and into Portugal, where they could, if they were blessed, find passage to England.
But she claimed her resistance cell was wary of the communists because they were, to her mind, far too quick to kill. I don't know if that is true, but she and her group quite regularly prayed, she says before robberies, went down on their knees to ask the Lord to bless their lawlessness.
The next group most deeply involved with Resistance action were those scholars call "the orthodox Protestant," by which, for the most part, they mean is the strictest of the Dutch Calvinists, people most akin to my own.
And why were they so daring? How is it that the orthodox Protestants were so deeply involved? Here's what the scholars say in reference both to Holland and France, where Resistance fighters arose in great numbers from the Huguenots, French Calvinists.
Researchers believe that those men and women who took the Old Testament seriously, who believed the Jews were still God's chosen, were those who entered the fray. They knew it was the Jews who put Jesus on the cross, but because those Calvinists believed the scripture's story, they were sure Jewish people remained the apple of God's eye. Orthodox Protestants from the northern provinces got dirty and died in the Resistance during the war; generally, secularists weren't, and neither were Roman Catholics.
I could quote from Diet Eman, who explained her involvement in exactly that way, time and time again. Dutch Jews were our friends, she said--and they were. But they were also precious to God, not simply because they were human and image-bearers, but also because they were blessed in ways Gentiles often didn't understand, blessed specially by the Creator of heaven and earth. Because they were, they had to be rescued.
That's the argument. When I listened again to her tell her story, there it was--that was the reason. There were a dozen others too, but she would explain it clearly when she would tell her story--because they were God's chosen people.