Support and love and acquiescence are all so muddled in the human experience that I wonder sometimes if we don’t mistake love and support for agreement. This is—admittedly—neither here nor there, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It seems that if you don’t support something, then you’re automatically grouped in with the haters; and if you do support someone, then you automatically agree with their decisions.
In Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars by, there’s love and support too, and apparently the Germans took that as acquiescence when the truth was, the Danish were undermining them the entire time. The love and support were for each other, and it turned an entire nation of people into heroes.
Number the Stars is told from Annemarie’s point of view during 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She and her best friend, Ellen, are normal 10-year-old girls who are concerned with school, friends, competition, and life in general. Of course, the rationing and want of a World War II-world places a pall over their lives as well as the occasional deaths of those they love. Yet, they’re getting through it.
Until the Nazis start targeting the Jews, shutting down their businesses, and rounding them up for “relocation” (aka concentration camps). Annemarie and her family act. They hide Ellen and her family who happen to be Jews. At this point, we realize that Annemarie’s parents and other ordinary folks are operating an underground to get the Jews free and clear to Sweden.
It’s all about love. Lois Lowry hints at this when she tells the story about the Danish king riding the streets of Copenhagen alone to greet his people. Upon being asked by a Nazi why a king goes about unprotected, a young Danish citizen says:
“All of Denmark is his bodyguard.”
This then turns into all of Denmark being bodyguard and protectors of the Jews. And Annemarie, this young girl, takes her place among the ranks of the guardians. That’s true love and support and courage: doing what’s right regardless of the cost.
Denmark may not have chosen to fight the Nazis in obvious ways like Great Britain and the United States, but it fought in the small ways. It fought for the people, individual by individual. That fight mattered to those people, and that makes everything worthwhile.
I could say something here about the beauty of Lois Lowry’s prose, the poetry in her writing, the depth in her characters. All good reasons to enjoy a book. But I’ll just go with this: it’s true and important.
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