Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, March 11, 2013

VII. Things I didn't remember--good guards


Just about everyone had to lie. If you hid Jews or onderduikers, those hiding from the law or from conscription of some sort or Allied pilots, you were always a bald-faced liar. Every waking moment was falsehood. Drawing breath was lying.

If you saw what was going on all around--the gradual disappearance of every last Jewish face--but didn't act, you had to lie to yourself at least, if not to others. You had to tell yourself that this nasty business, whatever it was, was simply not your concern. You had your family to feed after all, and this was war and in war hell came to earth. You must have had to deliberately look the other way.  That kind of stonewalling is it's own brand of deceit.

Among the Nazi collaborators, only those who lacked a conscience could have escaped having to lie.  Only those who lacked decency, those who energetically transmitted Hitler's  hate, who cared only about their own bellies--only those Dutch men and women who could not have cared less about their country or its people could have escaped bearing false witness. Are there really people who have no conscience? Honestly, could anyone have escaped lying?

Diet Eman says that at a crucial moment before her hearing in the concentration camp, she remembered Rahab, the whore, who gave the Canaanites nothing less than bald-faced lies when they questioned her about Joshua and the men who must have been her customers the night before--and Rahab is forever enshrined in the line of David, which is to say, the line of Jesus. The Bible gives the whore sainthood for her lying.

Diet wasn't the only one to pull the harlot's story from the pages of the Old Testament, I'm sure, hundreds--even thousands--had to. "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is there on the tablet Moses lugged down from Sinai, but the history of redemption has more than a few maybes.

During the Occupation of the Netherlands, just about everyone had to lie.

And it's easy to forget the double-agents, those who collaborated with both sides.  

When Hein was arrested, he got word out of prison that Diet should not go up north to Friesland, that the Nazis knew about the post-office box where the cell kept false IDs and ration cards and all kinds of contraband.  He left very specific instructions to the whole group, telling them absolutely what had to be done.

And that list came out of the prison by way of what she calls "a good guard."

It's easy to forget the "good guards," the men and women who collaborated with the Nazis by keeping their countrymen locked up, by doing unsavory things, even horrible things they would have rather never, ever done or witnessed, but do so, at least in part, to stay in character, because they were also playing the other side, carrying notes from those the Nazis imprisoned to people who needed to know, those who likely never said a thing to people in striped prison gear but somehow gave them a look those men and women recognized, some slight of hand, some eye movement, a wink maybe, a untoward smile, something, some indication that things were not what they seemed. They were liars too, and saints.

Following his arrest, Hein got absolutely necessary information out to those whose lives were in danger, instructions and explanations, even the news.  And that word got out of the prison and into her hands, she says, by way of a "good guard."

A phrase which is not an oxymoron.  

Everyone lied. No one had it easy. Some liars were simply more public than others.  

Thou shalt not bear false witness, but remember Rahab.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between "lying" and the Truth, as we see and hear in our evening news about the poor and the rich. Seems Jesus had something to say about these things?

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said about serving the "greater good" however, the "greater good" motives ultimately reside in the heart of man and is fact-checked by the Almighty Himself.

Rahab's fact-check showed she was spot-on is is now in the Faith Hall of Fame.

Love it.

PS I doubt whether the sleezy politicians have any "greater good" in mind when they spin us a manure spreader load of crap on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Those hiding were called "onderduikers" from the verb "duiken" to dive. They dove under, went underground.