A Canary in the Coal Mine

A friend of mine, Tela Zasloff, has written meaningfully about the recent massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh.  I want to share it with you.


My husband and I raised our family in Pittsburgh, his native town.  We belonged to Dor Hadash, the Jewish congregation that lost members yesterday because of the crazed gunman who walked into Sabbath services and killed 11, while shouting “All Jews must die!”  Like everyone I know, I am stunned by this event.  But I am also struck by the deep connection to my other concern of the moment—working with a French editor to publish a book I wrote over 15 years ago, about a French Protestant pastor who saved hundreds of Jews during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

There is a repeated pattern here—of a moment in a nation when many people are giving in to national leaders and parties in power that stir the fear and violence and hatred and paranoia needed for them to stay in power.  The Nazis had Hitler and his enablers, we have Trump and the Republicans in Congress and the hate fringe supporting Trump.  Their power tactics are similar: attack critics, particularly the press; corrupt the system; weaken the rule of law; keep fear always in the foreground; divide people into rival groups; lie so continually that people will accept lying as normal and lose sight of what is true and not true.

Some will argue that America today is not in the same situation as when Hitler came to power in the devastated Germany of the 1930s or France was defeated by Hitler in the early 1940s.  But the present state of our nation, especially the increase in hate talk and public violence like the Pittsburgh shooting, indicates that history is showing us, there IS, indeed, a strong similarity, which we need to recognize and address immediately. 

The French Pastor-rescuer I wrote about recognized early the evil that was Hitler and spent the most intense years of his life saving hundreds of Hitler’s victims from extermination, while the majority in his country kept quiet.  He was clear thinking, independent minded, and driven on a mission of rescue throughout the War.  And he was courageous, putting in danger himself, his family, his colleagues.

We don’t need to go to such extremes to restore the good faith we could have in our system of government.  We still have the right and the option to vote, to choose different, more trustable leadership.  But it has to be now, in the midterm elections happening on Nov.6.   Do whatever you can.

Tela Zasloff,  The author of A Rescuer’s Story: Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille in Vichy France (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003)

I share her comments with her permission, and with the fear that she is on to something.  My wife recently commented that the world was rescued from the terrors of Nazi Germany by the United States.  And she asks, who will save us now?

One thought on “A Canary in the Coal Mine

  1. Cyril Meehan says:

    Our first comment has to be that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this atrocity. Our second has to reflect our societies here in the UK, in America and other nations of the world. To forget the past means humankind will inevitably fall into the same divisions,hates and feuds that punctuate human history. This article reminds us to remember the past and those unsung heroes who are often forgotten. This remembrance feeds not only our knowledge of history but gives us the courage to ”fight the good fight’, pulling down those barriers that those who disagree with us are trying to erect. So thank you for sharing this timely reminder that hate will never win, (unless we let it), because it can always be overcome by love and our small contribution matters.


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