My 11-year old son, Ethan, saw a book the other day that interested him. It is titled, I Survived the Nazi Invasion. This book is a part of the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. Ethan has read a couple of Tarshis’ books, I Survived The San Francisco Earthquake and I Survived The Japanese Tsunami. I found out about the Nazi invasion book as we were driving home from school the other day. Ethan asked this question, “Dad, what is the Nazi invasion?” He pronounced Nazi, nazz-ie. I told him it’s pronounced with a “t” sound, like in pizza. My correction didn’t sway him from his original question. He asked again, “What is the NaTzi invasion?” The virtue this month at Saint John’s School is persistence, and, I’d have to say that Ethan was living up to that virtue.
I jumped into a rather lengthy description of 1930’s Germany and Hitler’s rise to power. The History Channel would have been very impressed; Ethan wasn’t. He continued, “Why would someone write a book, I Survived the Nazi Invasion? Can you tell me about that?” That’s when I clued in that the book was a part of the popular series that he likes to read. I asked more about what he saw in the book. He told me the back cover said that a boy, Max, was living in Poland when his father was taken by the Nazis. Max and his sister then ran away from the soldiers and hid in a barn. He said, “Who are the Nazis and why were they running from them?” The conversation turned to Hitler and his internment of the Jewish people. I said it was a part of the holocaust. At a stop light, I turned and looked at him and said, “Do you know what the holocaust is?” He thought about it and said, “No, what is it?”
As the setting sun reflected on his fair skin, he noticed that I was looking at him. He turned and looked at me, anticipating my explanation with his beautiful greenish blue eyes and a half-smile across his lips. I remarked, “You live in a world where the holocaust doesn’t exist.” I was filled with a mixture of envy and deep sadness. “Do you want to know about it?” He replied with a nod of his head. I didn’t want to tell him. I wanted him to live in the world where millions of people are not eradicated like insects. Heck, I wanted to live in that world. It certainly is better than the one I can offer him.
The light turned green, I focused on driving. After crossing Broadway Ave, I said, “Do you really want to know? It will change the way you see the human race and the depths of cruelty and evil we can do to one another.” In typical Ethan fashion, he thought about it, earnestly thought about it. During that time of introspection, I realized he’s going to hear about it sooner or later. I’d rather he hear it from me, if he’s ready. We stopped at the Blue Line train tracks. Ethan looked at me and said, “Yes Dad, I think I need to hear about it.”
The expulsion from the Garden of Eden was for eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge – knowing good and evil. It cripples this priest to have to walk my son through the expulsion by way of Hitler and the holocaust. The other I Survived books are about natural disasters, an earthquake and a tsunami. In those stories, people work together to save people. This I Survived book, however, was about anything but a natural disaster; in this one instead of healing, people are exterminated. Or so I thought.
The book is actually about Max and Zena Rosen. They flee the Nazi guard and are protected by a non-Jewish farmer who puts his life on the line by hiding the children in his barn. It is a story of human triumph in the face of incredible threat and death.
On this side of Eden, we see all sorts of abuse that we do to each other, yet, we also see the rise of the human spirit and the caring and healing we can do for one another. It’s within this swirl of goodness and angst that Christ rode a donkey into Jerusalem with people shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!”