Both Elsie and Reba are confronted with the issue of blind obedience. At what point must we question the governing regulations and at what point must we act on our own convictions?
Join Date: 10/15/10
Join Date: 01/16/12
Such a sensitive and difficult question.
As a Jew, it is beyond comprehension that a whole nation allowed, followed, and/or condoned what happened in Nazi Germany. As one who has studied the holocaust as well as cult followings and indoctrinations, I can somewhat understand how a mind can be bent. To blend these things together is another matter. Through this book and other reading I've done, there is no doubt that the German people suffered during the war. That they stood by and watched as friends and neighbors were rounded up and sent away is uncomprehendable. Elise's father was portrayed as a very sympathetic character, and yet he was in full support of his country and truly against allied troops. These are hard concepts to reconcile, but accurate in their conception. I think each of us would like to think that we would speak up in this situation, but at what cost to our personal well-being. Also, how easily can convictions be changed slowly and innoculously by very subtle conditioning without our actually realizing what is happening. Hitler was mesmerizing and had an almost hypnotic hold on his people. Yet there were many people who like Elsie saw a need to help others at their own peril.
Join Date: 09/08/12
I do agree. Most of us would like to believe that we would not be taken in so easily and that we would feel as Elsie did. We're always told that you have to understand what happened to the Germans after WWI in order to understand how they could have been conditioned to ignore what was happening to the Jews and how they found it so easy to hate them. I still have great trouble understanding that. Look at Josef and how he reacted and killed a man for killing a Jew and it haunted him the rest of his life. At the same time he did what he was told to do. We listen to Hitler speak and to us it isn't mesmerizing at all but somehow to the Germans it was. Part of the goal in this story I think is to show the reader that there were Germans who didn't feel it was right and didn't follow regulations at their own risk for others.
Join Date: 03/05/12
I don't think we should ever accept anything without question. Our ability to question ideas, theories and people is the only real power we have. While I understand the representation in the book of good people supporting things that are abhorrent, I don't think we should ever support something or follow something without question.
Join Date: 09/08/12
In the beginning of the Holocaust, no one believed that their friends and neighbors were being killed, not even those that weren't Jewish. When reality started setting in, to disagree or refuse an order was at great personal cost to yourself and your family. When you go into boot camp for the service, even here in the US, everyone is indoctrinated to "Yes Sir". Although we know that to disagree and refuse an order will not mean death, we still hear of cases where people should have questioned an order. Everyone brings different life experiences to the table.
Join Date: 07/28/11
Unfortunately, we are legally bound to abide by regulations whether we believe in them or not. By not accepting them, you and your family are put into situations that aren't ideal. I do think we need to question regulations and make our opinions known - that doesn't mean we have to accept them, but it means we have to abide by them
Join Date: 05/30/12
I am certain that I can say that the majority of us today have absolutely no way to truthfully answer that question. In our day-to-day social interplay this moral concept may be tested in the most minor way. None of us have lived with the restrictions and impending consequences that made up the lives of Germans and Jews alike during this most hate-filled War. We can only "hope" that we would choose admirably if forced. Would our own lives be deemed more valuable than our neighbor? Would we believe our countries code of ethics were infallible, no matter what our mind and heart told us? I can only "hope"....
Join Date: 06/16/11
I think this is a very hard question to answer for all of us who have lived our whole lives as American citizens.
We have never been subjected to the rule of dictators or monarchies or other absolute rule governments and are really sure that we would always act on our own convictons. I truly hope that we would but am not certain that the welfare of our families would not prevent us from following the rules as much as we disagreed. I think that protecting my children and grandchildren might become my first priority if I am really honest with myself.
Join Date: 04/29/12
joyces: Respectfully - I think we can all rest easy knowing that the United States of America was not led by a menacing dictatorship. We live in a great country. However, as our history tells us, there were many people in our country that were American citizens who - for a long time - were not treated equally and who were denied the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I would argue that Americans, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez lived and died by their convictions. People in this country who stand up for their convictions, and stand up for what's right is what makes them great. It's what make America great.
Join Date: 06/16/11
Barrabas: You are totally correct in pointing out that as Americans we are certainly not blameless in the area of ethnic superiority and cruelty and blindness to those of less than white skin. I also am thinking of the original American's( the Indians) who were shamelessly robbed of the Life, Liberty, etc. of which we are so proud. As, has already been said, I hope that we can be better in the future and do stand up for our convictions.
Join Date: 04/10/11
I am optimistic enough to believe that most people can tell when regulations are fair and correct and therefore follow them. For some, however, their thinking has been altered by a mesmerizing spokesman, disease, sin, or chemicals. However, fear for themselves or their families may keep good people from doing what they know is right, such as providing protection for Jews in Nazi Germany. Elsie is to be applauded for her decision to keep Tobias, even after her times of doubt and fear for her family.
Join Date: 04/15/11
I tend to agree with Sarahh - that it can never be right to just accept regulations blindly with no thought as to the purpose or consequences. It is important to be able to act on our own conscience's behalf, if that action doesn't further harm others. For freedom to exist, we need to be able to choose our courses of action, yet not infringe on the lives of others while doing so. Hiding Tobias was certainly the favorable course of action. So was the feeding and hiding of other Jewish people in the comunity. It is amazing to me that the women involved had the courage to resist the Gestapo tactics.
Join Date: 01/12/12
I'm interested in exactly how a charismatic dictator takes over a nation of normally rational people and teaches them to hate another group of people. But then, look what 's happening in the Middle East. Other charismatic leaders have taught their people to hate from the time they're little children. People are willing to strap bombs to themselves to kill others. There must be some mob mentality at work here, some human need to be a part of a group. But at any cost? I wonder when group-think mentality overtakes rationality and how resistant your average person would be when all his/her neighbors, friends and families have joined the mob. It's scary, when you think about it.
Join Date: 06/13/11
People find it easier to follow the crowd. Look at the Middle East today. However it is hard to think people did not know what was going on. That is what made Josef a sad character. He followed orders but was torn with the humanity of them. Think of his killing of Peter for shooting the woman and then his feeling of guilt as he tried to connect with Peter's two families. Did he realize what Kremer was like?
Join Date: 04/15/12
I think we always have to question regulations in order for society to evolve. Slavery was the law in this country, so was separate but equal in regard to education and job and housing discrimination. If individuals had not confronted these injustices, we would not have the freedom we do in the U.S. It is difficult to know what one would do if we had to choose between our families, our lives, and what we feel is right. That is why Elsie is so brave even though she has flaws.
Join Date: 10/19/10
Blind obedience to an order opposed to questioning that order is such an ongoing conundrum that I don't feel we can ever resolve. If the question is obeying under a totally repressive government (Nazi Germany) or questioning an order on moral grounds and changing jobs, moving wherever we choose and not putting our lives on line, we are comparing apples and oranges. I had a difficult time understanding the author's position in using these two story lines to make a point.
Join Date: 05/12/11
I read through all the responses and there are some really good ones. I have both the Jewish and military background so can really relate to both sides of this question. I feel that one can accept regulations without question UNTIL you are told to do something that you know is morally wrong. Then you must question it. Some of the responders mentioned what is happening in the Middle East. I can tell you that I worked with several men in Iraq that stood up to those who told them if they did not stop working with those who wanted democracy there members of their family would be killed it did not stop them. As a result, some of these men lost brothers, fathers, uncles, etc. Some of them were kidnapped and assassinated. One man told me how he spent many years in prison for refusing an order from from the previous regime that would have resulted in the death of many children. So I can accept that the Germans had a hard time during Hitler's regime. But when the people and soldiers were told take actions that any society would consider morally wrong that is when they should have spoken up. Fortunately some did.
Join Date: 01/12/12
Even on a smaller scale, there's often peer pressure to act in an immoral or dangerous way. It permeates multiple layers of society and takes a lot of strength of character to go against the system, when it's so much easier just going along with the crowd. It's difficult sticking by your convictions, sometimes.
Following the establishment makes a person feel included but, deep down, it can certainly be destructive.
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