Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 3

Basic HTML Version

Breathe Upon These.
B y L
u dw i g
L
ew i s o h n
.
Indianapolis,
B
o b b s
- M
er r i l l
Co. 218 pages.
Mr. Lewisohn takes his title from the verse in Ezekiel, “Come from the four
winds O spirit and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” The story pivots
on the episode of the Struma, that shipload of refugees who fled a Rumanian ghetto
in December of the Hitler-fouled year 1941, and set out for the Land of Is ra e l . . .
and never arrived.
Everyone knows what happened to the 769 starved Jews of Czernowitz aboard
the
Struma.
They drowned in the Black Sea, after six weeks of waiting in starved
hope between two harbors. In sight of the shores of Palestine, they went to their
death because nobody cared enough to rescue them. The
Struma
ran into a mine.
There were no lifeboats.
Who permitted “ this monstrous and merciless thing” to be done? Why were
these people allowed to die ? The people aboard the
Struma
were beyond the reach
of the Nazis. I t was not a Nazi crime, this time. What then?
A civilized man asks such questions. In Mr. Lewisohn’s novel a civilized man
tries to answer them. For the immediate scene of
Breathe Upon These
, is not the
ghetto of Czernowitz or the deck of the
Struma
, but a small and orderly middle-
western American town, to which one of those refugees has come after a frightful
journey. This man is Dr. Erich Dorfsohn, once celebrated in the scientific world
of the German Republic. With his wife he has reached this haven. And, through
the major portion of this novel, Dr. Dorfsohn talks about the world he has left
behind him . . . talks for the benefit of a typical Gentile American family who are
dedicated to all the proper viewpoints and are withal strangely ignorant of the
real issues and the real dangers rocking all their lives.
I t is the story of the
Struma
that he tells these people. He shocks them, for they
have been accustomed either to ignore or to minimize the meagre newspaper re-
ports of atrocities, and this is their first encounter with human beings who knew
these things intimately.
“ I wish that everybody in our country could have heard you today,” says young
Paul, at the end of that afternoon, when all of them are more awake than they
have been in many years of self-confidence and willing blindness.
If Mr. Lewisohn’s book, with its dramatized restatement of a significant warn-
ing, reaches the little homes in America, the homes of the Paul Burnetts who are
essentially good people but forgivably ignorant as yet, we will be content.
The lovers of the early Lewisohn will not hail this novel as great, but they will
have to admit its moving quality and its crusading strength.
M i l d r e d B a r i s h
in
Opinion
This Festive Season.
B y J
e a n n e
S
i n g e r
.
New York,
H
arcou r t
B
r a c e
.
237 pages.
The thesis of this book by Jeanne Singer was advanced long ago by Ahad Ha-am,
famous Jewish philosopher, in his essay, “Slavery Within Freedom.” Miss Singer
has actually clothed this telling phrase with a most delicately wrought tale.
Rather than shrilly berate “ the slaves” of her tale for their supineness in the accept-
ance of their lot, the author patiently leads them to an oasis of enlightenment
and rebellion.
The story begins on a note of indignation when Richard Sturtevant, a college
professor, is greatly disturbed when a former student of his, Robert Silver, fails
to receive an instructorship because he is a Jew. Sick with shame at a society
which can commit such offenses against ordinary decency, Professor Sturtevant
feels morally obligated to inform Silver of the faculty’s intolerant decision.
Silver’s attitude was one of resignation and unquestioning submission to an
unpleasant reality. Try as he might, the professor was unable to overcome Silver’s
“militant acquiescence.” Robert could not at all perceive the implications behind
the rejection.
— 61 —