|Remember - yes, but how?|
I wrote about an unforgivable act, done by German troops on June 10, 1944. The killing of almost all the inhabitants in the small French town Oradour-sûr-Glâne. After having called them all to gather on the town square the German troops killed 642 men, women and children. Many were taken to the church and burnt to death when the church was set on fire. People were shot. Infants were killed by being smacked against a wall. Very few people managed to escape.
My mother’s novel Oradour (1958) which I had recently reread, gave, as I thought, an important perspective on the atrocious crime committed in Oradour. The novel describes the revenge taken by one of the survivors who murders a young German tourist in Oradour after the war. It pictures this murderer’s way towards understanding a dilemma that leads him to suicide: his own incapacity to forgive and the necessity of forgiving if life is to be worth living.
In the novel forgiveness is not about excusing the act or understanding the motives. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Forgiveness is to understand what the perpetrator has done, both to others and to himself. Forgiveness is to see my own thirst for revenge, to understand what IT could do to others and to myself and to allow my knowledge about this to let me find ways of remembering that do not destroy life.
In order to go on with your own life after experiencing a calamity, you need to find a way of freeing yourself from it. The survivor who murdered the German tourist never found a way of freeing himself from the experience of the catastrophe. In the beginning of his farewell letter to his closest friend, he writes: ”You have your life, Marcel, and you must live. You must not take my death too much to heart. You know that I haven’t really lived since June 10 1944.”
An official website about the Oradour massacre in 1944.