Does your Era Define you?


After reading Treppenwitz’s meme and then In the Pink’s own, I thought I would have a go myself.

Year you were born: 1964

Generation: very late “baby-boomer”

One or more national leaders that year: De Gaulle (France), Lyndon Johnson (USA), Levi Eshkol (Israel)

Other big names of the day: Martin Luther King Jr., Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedys

News headlines from that year: Martin Luther King Jr is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Jean-Paul Sartre the Nobel Prize for literature, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, Radio Caroline becomes England’s first pirate radio station from a ship anchored just outside UK territorial waters, The PLO’s founding congress (sigh), Cold War

Books from the crib: “Babar the Elephant”, “The Famous Five”, “Nancy Drew”

Cutting-edge technological of that era: first man on the moon, the programming language BASIC was created, TV sets, the first business computer with the IBM System/360

Not-so-cutting-edge technology of the era: summer vacation slide shows, LP players, terry fabric t-shirts

Omni-present then… but missing in action now: Citroën 2cvs, Etch-a-Sketch

Odd things in your baby albums: big prams, little girls with hair in bunches, bell-bottoms

Smells that take you back: Mustela baby lotion, Palmolive soap bar, patchouli (not that I liked it but it seemed to be everywhere)

Sounds you were raised on: The Beatles, “The Little Prince” read by Gérard Philippe, Claude François

The electronic babysitter (TV and/or radio): Bonne Nuits les Petits, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Zorro.

Earliest memories: Going on vacation in my parents’ navy blue Renault 4

Leave us with a quote: “My parents are big children that I got when I was little”

Psalm 27 and Responsibility


אַל-תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ, מִמֶּנִּי

9. Hide not Thy face from me

In my introduction to psalm 27, I asked readers what this psalm evoked for them. Referring to this line, Leora wrote:
I think of the Holocaust and of the anger people feel at God’s seeming to hide during those horrible years.

A similar idea is often summarized as “Where was God during the Holocaust?”

This is a difficult question and tentative answers always seem unsatisfactory. I do not propose to provide a reply but a book I read over the weekend made me think about this line.

Georges Bensoussan is a French historian who specialized in Holocaust history. In a thought-provoking book about the Holocaust and how it should be taught to the younger generations, he refers to Christopher Browning ‘s 1992 book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.

This is a study of German Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) Reserve Unit 101, used to massacre and round up Jews for deportation to the death camps in Poland in 1942. The conclusion of the book, which was much influenced by the experiments of Stanley Milgram, was that the men of Unit 101 were not demons or Nazi fanatics but ordinary middle-aged men of working-class background from Hamburg, who had been drafted but found unfit for military duty. These men were ordered to round up Jews and if there was not enough room for them on the trains, to shoot them. The commander of the unit gave his men the choice of opting out of this duty if they found it too unpleasant. (Wikiepedia)

Very few did – only about 10% – but interestingly enough, they were not prosecuted. Those that took part acknowledged that they didn’t want to be excluded from the group. It seems that peer pressure was stronger than their conscience even though they risked nothing by refusing to kill Jews.

Bensoussan wonders what made people able to abstain from committing horrors. He emphasizes that culture and education did not prevent ordinary men (or women) from taking part in the genocide of European Jews. However he suggests that those who had the capacity to judge themselves and reflect on their own actions were the ones who were able to stand up and act humanly.

During Elul, judging urselves and our actions is what we are expected to do. We do it in the hope that we will improve in the future. Of course we won’t be faced with such cruel decisions as the German soldiers mentioned above but shouldn’t we remember that we are God’s accessory into bringing humanity into the world and as such have the capacity to ensure that His face be not hidden from the people we come across every day?