Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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THE L I T E R A T U R E OF REMOR S E *
B
y
R i c h a r d G r u n b e r g e r
I
t i s a r e m a r k a b l e c o i n c i d e n c e
that I should be dealing with
the literature of remorse on this day of all days. Today is
the 11th of March—and it was on the 11th of March 1938, exactly
26 years ago, that the Nazis annexed Austria and embarked on
the road of foreign conquest ending in world war and genocide.
When I went out into the streets next morning I saw a trans­
formed Vienna: the houses were swathed in swastika flags and
bunting, and endless Wehrmacht columns were pouring into
the city from the West. The stream of field-grey uniforms seemed
to wash over me till I felt utterly naked and defenceless.
Fortunately the human mind has a tendency towards pushing
memories of this nature into the background and with the
passage of time the impact of that day lost its sharp outline,
became blurred and almost dissolved into obliviousness.
Then, quite a few years after the war I picked up Rex
Warner’s novel
The Professor
and read the following passage:
“So he stood and watched until he could distinguish
clearly the bodies of cavalry, the beetle-shapes of tanks, the
gun-carriages and lorries proceeding at regular intervals and
behind them an indistinguishable grey mass of moving in­
fantry. He saw the long column of grey boring like a
caterpillar or grub into the entrails of the city. . . . The
troops had now filled the main avenue and smaller bodies
were branching off the larger stream and parading up the
other roads. It was as though some fluid were being injected
into the veins, altering totally the complexion of the city
in which he had spent his life.”
As I was reading this a long-buried memory thrust itself to
the surface of my consciousness. When the shock of recognition
had worn off I started to ask myself how it was possible for a
* This paper was presented on March 11, 1964, during the 12th annual
celebration in London of Jewish Book Week under the auspices of the Jewish
Book Council of England, during the session organized by the World Jewish
Congress, British Section.
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