Do you remember the books you read in Junior High? All Quiet on the Western Front, The Great Gatsby, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Separate Peace — They leave an indelible impression on you when you’re thirteen. For example, I stopped reading All Quiet on the Western Front when the horses were killed in the second chapter, but my history teacher insisted in a written note to my parents that I had to finish it in order to appreciate the tragedy of war.
The Diary of Anne Frank is about a young Jewish girl striving to live a normal life under very abnormal circumstances. As I read the book, I wondered: What are those times in history when average person can no longer pursue his individual needs, but must sacrifice himself in order to protect the greater good? How do people decide to take a stand? What is the tipping point?
For example, let’s say you were living in Germany in the 30’s. In 1933, the first concentration camp was opened in Dachau. In 1934, the Aryan laws were passed to thwart Jews in the professions. In 1935, the infamous Nuremberg laws were passed, which stripped Jews of their German citizenship, and of their right to marry non-Jews. Would you have taken a stand then? Would you have left Germany? Or would you have continued to pursue a normal life?
This is how the Holocaust arrived, we learned in school. By bits and pieces. So that by the time Kristallnacht arrived on November 9, 1938, it was somehow tolerable that 100 Jews were murdered, 20,000 German and Austrian Jews arrested and sent to camps, hundreds of synagogues burned, and the windows of Jewish shops all over Germany and Austria were smashed.
What is your tipping point? When would you decide that you must put aside the idea of personal happiness, devoting life instead to stopping a terrible juggernaut?