On Friday, my wife and I watched the 2010 movie “Sarah’s Key,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas and based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. The movie is two stories that become one story – an American journalist (played by Thomas) named Julia Jarmond living in Paris with her French husband and teenaged child, and a young girl caught up in the Vel d’Hiv – the roundup of more than 13,000 Jewish men, women and children in 1942 Paris for eventual transport to Auschwitz.
The name “Vel d’Hiv” is taken from the name of the bicycling velodrome where the 13,000 people were brought – with no sanitation and no food.
The journalist is doing a story on the event, but the story takes a turn for the personal. The apartment in the Marais where her in-laws lived for more than 60 years, where her husband was raised, and which she and her husband are remodeling prior to moving into – belonged to a Jewish family who disappeared in the Vel d’Hiv.
The journalist is drawn into the story of this family, and what her in-laws did and didn’t know. Then she discovers she is pregnant. She’s been told she couldn’t have more children. She’s thrilled – but her husband isn’t. He doesn’t want his life to be disrupted, and he doesn’t want to be “an older father.” He wants his wife to abort the baby.
The movie is about many things, but it asks the question, can one live without hope? Can one escape from internment and certain death only to find a more difficult prison to escape from – the prison of memory and guilt and the prison of one’s own mind? The character of Sarah will answer the question one way; the character of Julia Jarmond will answer it another way.
That was our Friday night. On Saturday, we attended a talk by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, He is a marvelous speaker and possesses a marvelous intellect. He talked about his latest book, Why Jesus: Rediscovering His Truth in An Age of Mass-Marketed Spirituality, and a lot of other things as well. And he said this:
“The most empirically identifiable fact, and the most intellectually resisted fact, is the depravity of man.”
The scenes from the movie kept running through my mind as I listened. I suspect the movie, as good as it was, ultimately can’t truly convey the horror of what those 13,000 people experienced, and the six million other Jews, and the five million Poles, Russians, resistance fighters, homosexuals and others who died in the Nazi death camps.
We want to believe we are all basically good, that it’s culture or society or something else that causes us to do bad things. Most people don’t rob or kill or hurt or maim, right? We know that if something like the Holocaust confronted us, we would stand up for people, right?
Or would we close our eyes, shut our doors, pull down our curtains and hope they don’t come for us? Or help the authorities round up the Jews, like so many Parisians did? Or separate the fathers from their families, and then the mothers from their children, and send them off on separate trains to the east?
Twenty years ago, a vice president at the People for the American Way suggested that fundamentalist Christians needed to be exterminated. She was criticized for her words, but not much criticized.
Peter Singer, a professor of something called “applied ethics” at Princeton University, criticizes the pro-abortion position by saying they’re attacking the wrong premise – that life begins at conception. The premise to attack, he says, is that it’s wrong to kill an innocent human being, because these kinds of decisions should be based upon a “utilitarian calculation” that compares the preferences of a woman against the preferences of a fetus.
And how exactly does the fetus express its preferences?
The problem is not society or culture. And it’s not “the devil made me do it.” The problem is within us.
Zacharaias also said this: “Maybe we should stop asking if Jesus died on the cross and instead ask why he died on the cross.”