We have become so result oriented that we have moved away from doing what we believe is right towards doing only what we believe will succeed.
This move has defined us by our successes and failures rather than our actions. Hence a moral action that doesn’t result in a ‘successful’ outcome is seen as a waste of time. Meanwhile, an amoral – or even immoral – action that brings about a desired result is seen as not only more practical but also better in every way.
This approach has very serious consequences, because the choice between good and evil is ours. Individually.
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. (1)
The women of Rosenstrasse got their husbands and children back but their courage actually achieved more than that –
…the Rosenstrasse women had forced the Nazis to make a choice: They could accede to a limited demand and pay a finite cost – 1,700 prisoners set free, if all the intermarried Jewish men were released. Or they could open a Pandora’s box of heightened protest… For the Nazis, maintaining social control was more important than making sure every last Jew made it to the gas chambers…
The protest confronted Nazis officials with an unresolved question: what to do with other intermarried Jews….On May 21 Himmler’s deputy released them all, everywhere, from the camps. (3)
I’m sure the women of Rosenstrasse didn’t think they’d succeed when they took to the streets demanding that their husbands be released. I’m even more sure they didn’t think other women’s husbands would be released.
But they still acted – with great courage – and did what they believed was the right thing to do, with no regard to the outcome.
Even if they had failed in their objective, their actions would still be brave and praiseworthy.
If they had stopped to consider their chances of success – they probably wouldn’t have even tried.
Photograph – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – on a train in Vladivostock as he returned to Russia in 1994 for the first time in twenty years.
(1) — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956
(4) In 1995, a memorial created by Ingeborg Hunzinger, an East German sculptor, was erected in the nearby park (which was ironically the site of a former synagogue). The memorial, named “Block der Frauen (Block of Women)” reads The strength of civil disobedience, the vigor of love overcomes the violence of dictatorship; Give us our men back; Women were standing here, defeating death; Jewish men were free.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “Beauty Will Save the World” (lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com)
- Shorties (Guided By Voices, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and more) (largeheartedboy.com)
- Books of the Century-NYPL (legacy.www.nypl.org)
- Henry Carlisle, Aided Oppressed Writers, Dies at 84 (nytimes.com)
- Immoral or amoral? (libroediting.wordpress.com)
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘last stories’ will appear in English at last (guardian.co.uk)
- The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo (conorcaffrey.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on a riot (blogs.securiteam.com)
- The Intention of Action, Part 2 (theslowblitz.wordpress.com)
- Close your eyes and you’ll see the moral truth! (Bruni) (kolber.typepad.com)