I saw so few movies last year! But one that I saw, over the Christmas holidays, was The Book Thief. It was a love story of many kinds of love. And a close-up look at the rise of the Nazis in Germany, and the personal price people paid – either by speaking up or keeping quiet. The price was paid either way.
The love of the little girl for her mother and brother, then for her foster father – and for her new best friend and finally the Jewish refugee. Her love of books. The foster father’s love for her, and for his wife – who worked hard at not being lovable, and at being scared. The neighbors’ fear of the Nazis, righteousness, unquestioning love of being part of the group in charge, even while quaking with fear.
An enriching look at the minutiae of life, and how that evil affected every inch of it.
I was in Slovakia years ago, in Pressov. A town that had had 6,000 Jews when the Nazis arrived. A town that looked the other way when those 6,000 were marched to the trains. They knew they would not see those neighbors again. Now there are 35 Jews in Pressov. With what is known as the most beautiful synagogue in all of eastern Europe. The guilt of the people shines right through them, has infected them totally. And yet – they treat the Roma, the gypsies, the cigan (a pejorative) with utter disdain, hatred and fear. Easy to see they might do it again if history turns.
The Book Thief showed the beauty and courage that is possible even in the midst of such pain and evil. It shows what it is to be human.