Fate Changes In a Moment

The title works on several levels.

Saturday was to be movie night. We had wanted to see Slumdog Millionairebut neglected to buy advance tickets and the next two showings had sold out. The choices, Quantum of Solace and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. I could not remember what the latter was about and while the Bond movie received mixed reviews, I preferred something mindless. I hesitated by calling my wife to gain her perspective. He who hesitates…it too sold out. Striped Pajamas it was.

Moments after the tickets were purchased,  I remembered what the movie was about. We had seen a trailer. A Holocaust movie was not the mindless entertainment I sought for this evening. The movie, like the book was really aimed at helping children understand the Holocaust. Yet the audience was middle aged to downright old. (I of course falling into the former category.)

The focal points of the movie are a German family of four, the solid soldier/father, the the head of household/mother and the daughter of 12 and son of 8. As the story begins, theirs is a life like many of the upper middle class in a big city. The initial portrayal shows of a picture of a family that could have been from anywhere. The boy plays with his friends, he wants to be an explorer. There are no monsters here. Yet the father is transferred to a new assignment in the country outside of Berlin. At the going away party are the first hints of Nazis and Hitler’s influence. The father’s mother clearly stands against those policies but is warned not to share her opinions in public.

The assignment is to run a concentration camp. Over the mid portions of the film you get to understand how adults and people can change. Children learn to hate through propaganda and lies taught to school children. Adults learn to hate through the idea of duty to the Fatherland at to obey orders at all costs. From this hate came the dehumanization of a people. Once dehumanized then being cruel and killing become natural. 

They movie presents contrasts. The 12 year old sister is quickly indoctrinated while the 8 year old boy meets his counterpart on the other side of a barbed wire fence. They become friends. Also, he is helped by a Jew working in the house doing odd jobs including peeling potatoes. The  boy discovers that this man was once a doctor.  Unlike his sister he cannot grasp the concept that all Jews are evil when he personally knows two who are anything but. He also cannot fathom why a doctor would choose to peel potatoes. He is amazed by the choices adults make. The other contrast is between a father doing his duty and the mother who can no longer believe in that duty when she discovers that people are being gassed and their bodies burned.  The boys fate ends with an ironic tragedy as he tries to right a wrong he committed to his friend in the striped pajamas. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I will save the details for those who may wish to see the movie. It is well done but not the thing to see when light fare is what you seek.

I began thinking about how topical this movie is today. Substitute Muslim for Jew and The U.S.A. for Germany and Guantanamo Bay for Auschwitz. I see too many parallels. We cannot let ignorance dehumanize another people. Never again.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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