The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1939
BOOK REVIEW AND EDITORIAL
Germany Real Loser in Pogroms
By W. J. CASH
Site ed. note: In this moving piece reviewing a short story on the plight of the Jews in Europe under the boot-heel of the Leader, Cash displays his sad foresight--something much of the world denied until after the war when the emaciated beings were found amid the barbed wire, the showers, the rotting flesh, the ovens, and the ashes. And inevitably he compares the bitter, boiling hatred which set it into motion to that of his native South.
Will it take centuries to undo? Though one generation passes its prejudices often to another, and with such comes the bitter traces of memory through several generations, at least we appear to be learning, with ever higher standards of education, to truncate the process of healing--at least until another bitter power-questing fellow and his little power-questing minions over in another divided land turn its ethnic prejudices to systematic extermination or enslavement of the scapegoat and thus leave more bitterness from bitterness behind for more generations to come.
A story of Stephen Vincent Benet's in his "Tales Before Midnight"--published by Farrar and Rhinehart this month at $2.50--brings up to my mind again a doubt that I have often found there in recent months.
It is a simple story. That of the young lieutenant, obviously a German, though his nationality is never identified, in charge of the expulsion of a contingent of a portion of the Accursed, whom the Leader has finally condemned in toto. For three days he moves along the road with them--these Jewish prisoners who must not be allowed to take any property--to the border of the land beyond which lie the lands of the Great Powers whom the Leader has again browbeaten into accepting his terms (a thing that no longer seems so plausible.)
NEGLIGENT AT FIRST
And in the beginning he is quite negligent. A friend of his boyhood passes in the throng of his prisoners and averts his eyes, and he remembers a piano heard through a window in the South. And a Christmas tree and an almond cake shared with a little Jewish boy. But one must remember his duty to the State and to Race. When these are gone, with their over agile minds and their slave religion, then the great proud free country can devote itself to its proper destiny of producing sons to die gloriously in battles of conquest. In the beginning he noted their faces, these accursed ones, as they went by but now at the end they were only sheep--and he was quite negligent, quite unmoved, he told himself as he stood proudly, somehow drunker than the brandy he'd had should have made him.
And then were the curious pair with a baby, on a donkey, the last, the very last, of the stragglers--and the sun was nearly down, the hour when he must have everyone across to fulfill his duty to the Leader. Think of that, trying to carry out a donkey! But the man is insistent, they had heard that there was danger to the child and so they could not stay any longer--and they should fare well enough, for they had been in exile before--stupidly like that. And the child stirred and turned its face to sunset glow and held out its hands. And then he, the Herr lieutenant, did the curious thing of having them hurried on across the border, donkey and all.
Afterward he sat and drank his brandy while the orderly removed his boots. And remembered that the child's hands had been pierced through, and saw the blot grow--and knew that it was on Germany that it grew and not on the accursed or those giving them refuge--that it spread over the whole land and became a blight.
The title of the story is "Into Egypt."
There are many people in the world who hope and believe still that the thing that Adolph Hitler has done can still be amended simply by taking thought, that the Germans themselves will presently be moved to repudiate his crimes, that man can then set down to build a decent Europe.
But the doubt that comes to me is that it is really so simple. The young lieutenant of the story was a very different man at the end of his road from the one he had been at the beginning. Slowly and subtly, all that he had seen had corroded his will and become part of him forever. In his case, it made for realization and humanity, indeed. But hate and brutality are corrosives that sink into the flesh, too. And once set going they are not to be tamed or cast out by mere words. At least, it has never been so. Spain set them going in the Fifteenth Century and has never been able to get them out of her again--is a skeleton among nations today because of them. And in the South itself we have not found it easy to dispose of them and all their hateful fruit, for all the fact that thousands of men of good will have worked for that end.
IT TAKES CENTURIES
I trust I am wrong. But--well, I should not like to be a Jew just now, for to be a Jew is a hard thing in this present world. And the thing I should dislike most of all is to be a German and have been exposed to living in the fanatically distorted world Adolf Hitler has made for the molding of German minds. For my guess is that it will be centuries before the curse is finally wiped out.
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