The Night with the Nazi
The last few days has seen terrible polarization in Indian political scene -so much so that it has spilled across borders. It appears like there is no end in sight. Binary thinking has clouded our collective minds,once again and there seems no hope for a national antidote.
As I was thinking about this topic, an event narrated by Nobel prize winning Israeli-American economist and pyschologist Daniel Kahnemann comes to mind.
He spent his childhood in Nazi - occupied Paris during World War 2. Hitler was at the peak of his power. The future of Europe seemed bleak. One evening, while playing at his friend’s home, young Danny forgot that there was a curfew that day. Just after 6 PM, he walked home - only to find a German standing in his way. Not just any German - a member of the feared Schutzstaffel or SS, the paramilitary force known for their brutality.
Danny cowered in fear - Being a Jew, he was to supposed to wear the Star of David on his sweater. His eyes met that of the SS man. For a moment, Danny didn’t know what to do - he way praying that the Nazi shouldn’t see his Star of David. The SS man beckoned Daniel. Trembling he went near him, wondering if this would be his end.
Unexpectedly, the Nazi gave him a warm hug, that lasted for an eternity. Danny was dumbfounded - he stood transfixed, wondering if he had gone insane. The Nazi showed him a photo of his son and how he missed his home dearly. He even gave Daniel some money and waved him goodbye.
To this day, Daniel has no idea if the Nazi saw his Star of David, the Jewish identity. He knew that the SS could sense a jew as acutely as a shark would sense blood. Yet, somehow he had found a commonality.
That night with the Nazi changed Daniel Kahnemann forever.
He realized that people are not good or evil -but complex creatures with multilayered morality.
That it is possible to find common things even in those sworn enemies. That humanity triumphs in the end, even if it has to go through a bloody Holocaust.
In the end, we have more in common than we realize. We don’t bleed saffron or green. And we salute the same flag.
There’s of course evil in the world. But there’s and there will always be more good than evil. If a Nazi can find comfort in the hug of a boy, whose race he had sworn to annihilate , what stops us from finding common ground with those who look , eat or pray differently ?