When I read literature about the Holocaust, American slavery, and Civil Rights, I am always amazed by the bravery with which individuals faced situations that I can never understand because the emotional and physical trauma and fear they endured is unfathomable.
I wonder if I, who live an easy life by comparison, has enough courage to do what is right even with the risk of death. Can I stand up for others, putting their lives before my own? Can I literally follow Christ’s example? I want to answer in the affirmative, but I am not sure because until I am in such a situation, I cannot be certain.
I finished The Diary of Anne Frank two days ago, which has caused me to think about this topic more than usual, particularly because Anne, her family, and their friends, who also hid in the secret Annex, were protected and cared for by normal people who wanted to do the right thing. Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl helped the residents of the Annex in countless ways: they not only took care of necessities, such as groceries, but they also went out of their way to make the residents as comfortable and happy as possible. They brought library books and arranged correspondence courses, among other things.
Thousands of people throughout Europe hid Jews. Some are famous, like the individuals who hid Anne Frank, and the names of others and those they saved are known only by God. There are other groups, too, although they are more infamous. They are the individuals who informed the Germans or local police where Jews were hiding and who hid them, and consequently, contributed to many deaths. Then, there are groups who knew people who needed help and had the opportunity to offer shelter or food but did not out of apathy, fear, or self preservation. History has recorded the names of some of these individuals, and the rest are known only by God.
It is easy to scorn those individuals in the latter categories–those who did not do the right thing–but sometimes, I try not be quick to judge them because in situations in which unimaginable fear, destruction, and death become a normal part of life, history finds people doing things that they would have deemed completely out of character.
I do prefer to believe, for example, that I would never report innocent people who are in hiding to the police. However, I wonder, if I had the resources and capabilities, whether I would have the courage to hide eight people in an Annex, knowing that the Germans and the Dutch socialist police are transporting Jews, other “undesirables,” and the people who hid them deeper into Europe. Most who left did not return home.
I hope and pray that if the day comes in which I am called upon to do the right thing that the Lord gives me the strength, wisdom, and prescience to do what must be done, come what may.