10 Sleeps To Go…A Date With A Doodlebug

Last Sunday it was off to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth with 3 generations of Scarlett men – J, his dad, and his son…

…’aaaah’ I can hear you thinking, ‘what a bloke-y day…all those big boy-toys…and Kym is going?’ and admittedly when we walked in to the main hall (not very big and filled with suspended planes and tanks and guns), I thought to myself, ‘hmmm…interesting, but how am I going to oooh and aaah over this for 6 hours!?’

But how wrong I was…the Imperial War Museum is a veritable treasure trove of exhibits and displays all hidden away behind the main hall…we were indeed there 6 hours…and we didn’t see anywhere near everything. We had to be satisfied with the Trenches interactive display and the Trenches experience (like walking through the trenches – smells and everything!!), a wander around the main hall (where I saw my first doodlebug – V1 bomb – see pic to the right), the World War I section and then the Holocaust exhibit – by our calculations this left World War II, the Children’s War and the Secret War for another day.

While all of it was interesting, the most powerful for me was the Holocaust Exhibition. To start, this actually took you through from the German’s loss in World War I and the subsequent Depression in 1929 and then to the ‘hope’ created by the National Socialist (Nazi) party, their election to power and the creation of Hitler as Dictator. There was also lots of footage talking about why the Jews were so hated (blamed for the German’s losing WWI apparently – broad shoulders eh!) and interviews with survivors interspersed with photos, ‘artefacts’ (for want of a better word to describe hundreds of shoes lining the scale model display of Auschwitz and the striped ‘pyjamas’ and SS uniforms worn in the camps) and lots of boards creating the narrative around this horrific event in world history.

It was fascinating and sobering all at the same time and the thing that struck me most was, at the time and in those economic circumstances, how ‘easy’ it would have been to believe in the propaganda, to see a little ‘hope’ in it for a better life. Not that I’m excusing any of it (just completely horrible – no words really to describe it) but I wonder – are we are all so very far away from this brutality? Can you imagine what the choice – of having your family killed or being part of the ‘solution’ – must have been like and what raw animal instinct people must have held onto just to survive and protect those they loved – on both sides?

Anyway, on a slightly more upbeat note, the museum also has a piece of the Berlin Wall outside (see pic) and I was explaining to J’s son (who is 13) what it was and what an important event the taking down of the Berlin Wall was in our lifetimes.

But then I stopped and looked at him and thought ‘hmm actually not in his lifetime’ – at 13, the wall actually came down 7 years before he was born! The same year I turned 20…

Just where did the time go?

Defiance

We watched a great dvd last night – Defiance. It’s based on the true story of the Bielski brothers who hid and led almost 1200 Jews through the Belarusan forests away from the Nazis during WWII. Whilst it starts slowly, as the forest community takes shape and everyone finds their new place, so does the film and themes like ‘an eye for an eye’ vs ‘turn the other cheek’, and the cost of life itself play over and over again. At the end of the film, the notes say that the two older Bielski brothers went to New York and continued to work together for more than 30 years – and that today, there are tens of thousands of Bielski descendents around the world.

I still find it difficult to believe that the horror of the Holocaust went on unabated for so long and that there are people around the world who actually don’t believe that it happened at all. We were fortunate enough during high school to meet a Holocaust survivor and when I remember his stories and the dignity with which he valued his life and honoured his beliefs, I still feel moved.

But what was so inspiring about the movie is the community that was created – where everyone participated and worked and received the same reward and recognition of their part in return – and the courage of these people to believe and to act when Tuvia Bielski led them away from the familiarity of their ghetto to a life ‘worth fighting for’ – both frightening in different ways but perhaps the unknown more so. Watch this movie and I reckon it will raise questions about humanity – including your own.

You can click on the blog title to view the trailer for yourself.