So. I’m in one of those lovely Hell Week times when I’m under the gun of a big deadline at work, overstressed, and – of course – still enjoying all those lovely adjustment issues with diabetes and medication. I’m pretty sure I’m not responding in the typical way to any of them, but I’m staggering on.
Anyway, this is a dangerous combination, because it’s when things I’ve heard or read that have been percolating at the back of my mind start to connect and draw conclusions. And those conclusions are not pretty things.
Yes, this is writing-related. It’s also related to a whole lot of other things, and is probably going to upset a fair few people. Because I’m talking about what the furore over the concentration camp romance says about those who screamed loudest to disqualify it.
So I started with a bit of research. Lo and behold, a handful of Google searches later, I find that yes, there are documented cases of precisely this kind of romance, and not just at Theresienstadt – which was a labor camp, not a death camp like Auschwitz. And yet, a guard at the death camp, one who appears to be on record as among the more brutal and least likely to risk being ostracized (at best) and potentially internment or execution as a race traitor (if not shot on the spot), did in fact fall for a Jewish woman and took those risks to save both her and her sister from execution. So it’s not impossible, just very difficult and unlikely. Sounds about right for a romance.
I have not read the book – mainly because I’m not big on romance at the best of times – but what I’ve read about it suggests the resolution is a tad unrealistic (and where is this so terribly unusual about a romance? Or any other genre, for that matter). I’m not going to comment on the quality of the book either, since all the comments about its quality that I’ve seen have been a side note to the real problem in the mind of the commenter, namely that it exists at all.
So. Let’s consider this. Concentration camp guard, pretty much by definition Nazi to the core (although this is actually not historically the case – the labor camps would use local guards to supplement the SS management) falls for an attractive Jewish prisoner. Yes, the power dynamics mean its a compromised relationship. He does quite literally hold her life in his hands.
But – and this is where I start to get irritated – claiming that anyone lacks the right to write this story as a romance isn’t just censorship. It’s bigotry of the old school once-a-thing, always-a-thing. Bloody Marxist classification by groups yet again.
Let’s unwrap a little. Concentration camp guard, SS member. By definition a Nazi – you didn’t get that position without being in the National Socialist Party. Forget that by the time the concentration camps were established, you didn’t get anywhere without Party membership (kind of like Communism… funny that…). The hero of the book is young, and the Nazis have been in power most of his life. It’s just how things are.
But the screamers are effectively saying that because he was a Nazi he can’t possibly redeem himself in any way and become a better person because he fell for a Jew. They’re saying that evil – because the Nazi ideology was unquestionably evil and generated no shortage of evil from those who lived under it – will always be evil. It’s more than guilt by association, it’s permanent guilt that can never be erased and will be passed on to your descendants forevermore.
And these people call Christians – who mostly understand these strange concepts called repentance and forgiveness – intolerant religious nuts?
Let’s get this clear. Anyone who wants to write a romance set in a concentration camp is welcome to do so. If it’s good and sells boatloads, good for you. If it’s crap and sells boatloads, good for you. I don’t even care if the concentration camp is Nazi, Communist, or even the original British flavor.
The fact remains, any person can come to realize that they’ve done evil. Any person can repent. Out of these facts great stories can arise – and they, and their less well-written cousins will make people uncomfortable.
And maybe, just maybe, a few of those who’ve been brainwashed by the current wave of Marxist-with-kinder-gentler-packaging will see what’s underneath the surface, and learn something.