Columnist Alex Beam talks about bystanders in the G Section of today's Boston Globe. Titled "The BSO's tainted donor," the item talks to philanthropists who have had questionable relationships in the past. In the Beam column the focus is on the the late Florence Gould.
Mr Beam's column, written in the form of an informative book review, starts with professor Jeffrey Mehlman and his article on former BSO conductor Charles Munch's activities in wartime Paris, but moves on to Frederic Spotts' recent book, The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation.
There is no getting around the fact that the Germans occupied Paris from the Summer of 1940 through to the Summer of 1944. Probably many, in the beginning, thought it was the end of the world and decided to make a deal with the devil in order to survive. They went from bystander to collaborator--collaborator to some degree. Two of my artistic favorites, Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, were so compromised.
I hear from time to time the term innocent civilian. Innocent children I believe, but if one follows the Declaration of Independence, there are no innocent civilians. That doesn't make it easy. We should all hope to be Corrie ten Boons, but who knows how one will act in the event?
But think how terrible the event was. Six million Jews killed and plans to kill all the Jews in Europe--eventually in the world. This kind of a campaign is something that should not be tolerated. And if you think killing 12 million Jews would be bad, what about the other 30 million people to be displaced or murdered under Generalplan Ost. When we think of the Holocaust we should remember that if the Allies hadn't stopped the German War Machine, the killing would have just gotten worse, and for those who were judged to be not "Aryan," it would be in line for eventual extermination.
It is for this reason that we need to think about those who are our artists and intellectuals and rich donors, but who let themselves be compromised. Columnist Alex Beam offers no solutions and neither do I. However, I do believe that in times of trouble each of us should work to be as close to a responsible citizen as possible, be it New Orleans during Katrina or Paris during the WWII Occupation. Some will fail and some will succeed. It is incumbent upon those who fail to admit the same and to honor those who succeeded, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
There are no innocent bystanders
Regards -- Cliff