Resistance beats compliance to totalitarian temptation


“Watching the Moon at Night” raises fundamental questions about issues that continue to haunt the modern world, and it also records and presents the views of some leading intellectuals – as well as activists and victims, said Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, who introduced the film at Washington D.C.’s Newseum yesterday.

This film will introduce you to many fascinating people, and I want to note just two of them.  One is Walter Laqueur, one of the great historians and intellectuals of World War II, the Cold War, and its aftermath:

He was born in 1921 in Breslau, Germany, which is now Wroclaw, Poland.  He left for Palestine the day before Kristallnacht on November 8, 1938.  He has written more than 100 books and countless essays and articles on subjects as varied as the Soviet Union and Germany, Europe and the Middle East, Zionism, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and terrorism.  He will turn 95 next month, and last year, at the age of 94, he wrote and published a very well-reviewed book entitled “Putinism: Russia and Its Future with the West.” 

The other person is Andre Glucksmann, the marvelous French intellectual who died last November.  Glucksmann was called by some “the French Orwell,” Gershman added:

He was one of the New Philosophers who started on the left and who turned against totalitarianism in the 1970s under the influence of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents.  He was fundamentally concerned about the great issues of genocide and evil in the modern world.  As a child he was sent with his parents to a waiting station for the trip to Auschwitz and watched as his mother stood up to the police, letting everyone know that they were to be transported to their deaths. She made such a scandal in the train, telling everybody that they were going to be killed and should rebel, that there was the beginning of a riot (as Glucksmann’s son Raphael recounted it to me) and the French police took the trouble-maker with her child off the train.  They let her go, even telling her “You are the kind of people who will survive.”  Based on this experience, Glucksmann always believed that resistance is better than compliance.  In addition, being very familiar with the revolutionary temptation of intellectuals to reshape the world through totalitarianism, he attached less importance to trying to transform the world than to mending the evil that we find in it, of which there is an endless supply.

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