Some of the most powerful books written in our time are set during the Holocaust. The horrors that took place during WWII present us with unique ways to explore human suffering.
I don’t believe anyone likes reading about the Holocaust or how many lives the world lost, but there’s a dark fascination. This time period allows us to tap into a shadowy world of despair which scars us to this day.
I pray that nothing of this scale will happen again, not even for prime book material. It hurts when I remember these things happened recently enough that there are survivors.
That said, there is nothing wrong with using tragedy to remind humans how to treat other humans.
Literature has in its arsenal the power to fight ideology, which is why books have been banned–by churches and governments. Punch back and pick a banned book to read today. Before you begin, though, I want to talk about The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer.
I haven’t read The Book Thief in a long time, but there are parallels to it in the matter of youth. For most of the novel, main characters Roman and Emilia are in their teens. They grew up mentally, but I pictured two people fresh out of childhood.
They were staring at the wall dividing the ghetto from the city–each staring from a different side.
The Warsaw Orphan made me ill in all of the ways that a good book should. Descriptions of dying, starving, homeless people waiting for death to gather them–but worst of all were instances of the soldiers’ indifference. I’m sure that not all soldiers were in favor of what was happening. I would like to read a book set during this time in which the soldiers are not blind to the suffering. If you have recommendations, I’d appreciate them.
The Warsaw Orphan describes realistically how Roman and Emilia grow. Roman becomes an angry man, ready to throw his life away with every resistance effort. Emilia retreats into herself, a coping mechanism when circumstances overwhelm her. They don’t have a perfect happily ever after romance. You don’t walk away from a nightmare like that and fall in perfect love. It takes time, and I liked seeing their efforts to trust one another.
Literature based on WWII is sobering. It reminds us of what happens if we forget that the people around us are human. When we start weeding people aside as useless or unnecessary, we compromise that humanity. I don’t believe we’ll reach such a degree of evil again, since history has been so well documented.
Fiction is not useless, either. It’s actually a powerful tool. Stories such as The Book Thief and The Warsaw Orphan help us to catch a glimpse of the inhumane. Fiction is a great way to learn from the past.
Books were once banned because they can shape a society. Books are powerful enough to recreate the most shameful events in history. They’ll pull us into the ghetto, where we hear and smell suffering through a well-phrased sentence. Books show us why these things were wrong.
I am not happy these things happened; I’m sure we’d have found topics to write about without the Holocaust. I am happy that people are not afraid to write about the ugly truth. Let these stories, whether they are biographies or fictitious accounts, remind us of humanity, loss, and strength.
We are capable of evil, but we are also capable of good.
The Warsaw Orphan brought me close to tears with sentences that hit home. The words settled on old injuries like balm I didn’t know I needed. Our pain is different from the pain written about in this book, but literature still heals that.
Read The Warsaw Orphan–it will change how you see people.