14 June 2013

Righteous Gentiles ignored - what else?

Had you heard of Varian Fry (before you read this article, I mean)? I had, but I suspect that this makes me a little odd, at least according to this article, because it would appear that being aware of Righteous gentiles is somewhat put of fashion. Although what "fashion" has to do with humanitarianism is beyond me. So be it.

Anyway, "[b]etween 1940 and 1941, working out of a hotel room and later a small office in the French port city of Marseille, Varian Fry rescued hundreds of artists, writers, musicians, composers, scientists, philosophers, intellectuals, and their families from the Nazis, taking enormous personal risks to bring them to the United States. Fry was one of the only American “righteous Gentiles,” a man who voluntarily risked everything to save others, with no personal connection to those he saved. At the age of 32, Fry had volunteered to go to France on behalf of the Emergency Rescue Committee, an ad hoc group of American intellectuals formed in 1940 for the purpose of distributing emergency American visas to endangered European artists and thinkers." Among those whom Fry recsued were Hannah Arendt, Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and André Breton, among some 2000 people in total.

Something, you would think, to celebrate. Not, according to Dara Horn, the author of this piece. It turns out that Horn has interviewed Pierre Sauvage who owes his life to Righteous Gentiles: "Sauvage’s fascination with rescuers comes in part because he owes his life to them. He was born in 1944 in Le Chambon, France, a Huguenot village in the south central part of the country in which the entire town, following the leadership of its Protestant clergy, formed a silent “conspiracy of goodness,” as Sauvage has called it, to shelter Jews from the Nazis. Sauvage’s parents were among the thousands of Jews hidden by the righteous of Le Chambon. His 1989 film Weapons of the Spirit is a documentary about the village; it has become an educational staple that I watched in my high-school French class."

The nub of this piece is where the author relates the following from Sauvage: "In 1984, Sauvage helped organize an international conference on the righteous, chaired by Elie Wiesel. “We brought all these righteous Gentiles to Washington,” Sauvage recalled. “In the breaks between sessions, the righteous Gentiles were standing around being ignored by the scholars. No one spoke to them, no one engaged them. How can scholars not be fascinated by these people?”"

What is really worrying is that I suspect that we all know the answer t that question, and it begins with 'because it's J...we're talking about". I'd like to think that that's me being too cynical.

Am I?

By Brian Goldfarb.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

The righteous did the wrong thing to today's scholars. They saved Jews from the Nazis. The only good Jews to scholars are those who died in the camps.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

There's been a sympathetic connection between Jews and Huguenots for a few hundred years, both in France and later in places like South Carolina, probably because both were persecuted by the Roman Catholics of those eras, including the Inquisition.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

They're not really scholars. They're conformists to a particular political viewpoint and to actually behave as scholars would endanger their careers.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Be it as it may, the article is largely about Jewish scholars, who could have been a bit more compassionate to these folks.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

If anyone is interested, there's at least one book about the village of Le Chambon: "Lest Innocent Blood be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There",Philip P. Hallie, and it appears to be still in print. I read it back when it was first published, 20 years ago.

Just imagine, a whole village of righteous gentiles.