Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thoughts on Irena Sendler and on Not Knowing What I Would Have Done

In my post on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising [notes from the speech I gave at the Sami Rohr Prize presentation in Jerusalem] I have been having an exchange with Roman Werpachowski, a Polish reader who believes the Warsaw Ghetto fighters were wrong to have fought to the end.

He believes that, since they knew they were going to die fighting, it would have been better for them to escape and lived. He makes a legitimate point but I am not sure if he is right.

But that is not the issue between us.

When I quoted Irena Sendler in the previous post on the bravery of Jewish mothers, those who were willing to give up their children to a stranger with no guarantee of the child's safety, I knew that I did not know what I would have done.

And I thought back to my exchange with this reader in which he delcares that he would have escaped. My issue with him has been that I simply don't know what I would have done in that situation:
Fought to the death?

Stayed with my family who might have needed my help?

Escaped to the other side knowing that it would result in my family's immediate deportation to a death camp?

Sat paralyzed with fright?
I don't know and I don't believe anyone else can know precisely what they would have done -- until they are in that position.

Funny thing, when I was younger I knew exactly what I would have done.....

May we never find out.

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