Continuing on my recent trek to read more works relating to the WWII era, the synopsis of The Law Jews in Berlin, by Leonard Gross, captured my attention. I’ve read many works regarding the Nazi leadership, the Nazi's death camps, the political machinations of the 1930s and 40s, and the philosophy behind the National Socialist movement in Germany. This, however, is the first work I’ve read (aside from The Diary of Anne Frank), that elaborated on the lives of those who, not having left the country before it was too late, lived out the worst of the WWII underground, in Berlin.
Gross tells the stories of a handful of those few hundreds of Jews, who hid right under the noses of the Nazis in Berlin, even as Hitler and his ilk sought to make the city “Judenfrei.” The stories came from interviews taken not long after the war ended. They are spell-binding, thought provoking . . . tear-jerking.
It is easy for people to look back on something from 70 years or so ago and think that the same could not happen today, but neither did most people living in the WWII era believe that such evil could go on in their day. Indeed, it was this very fact that made it possible for the Nazis to send so many to their deaths without word getting out to the rest of the world—and then not to be believed when it did. The Last Jews in Berlin, while reconciling my soul to the evil some may impose upon others, also rejuvenated my belief in the human spirit and in the everyday hero. I find courage in the knowledge that it was those who assisted their friends and neighbors, such as the Countess Maria von Maltzan and the leaders of the Church of Sweden, whose sacrifices, bravery and accomplishments, will live on.