Oradour again.

Ghosts of War - Oosterbeek Airborne museum; The eternal curator

I’ve written about Oradour-sur-Glane, the small town in France burned by the Nazis in 1944, and my 2010 visit there with my French friend, Nathalie.

Oradour is in the news this week as German President Joachim Gauck joined M. Hollande and an 88-year-old survivor of the massacre. President Gauck said he accepted the invitation with “gratitude and humility” but hoped to remind his French hosts that “the Germany that I have the honour of representing is a different Germany from the one that haunts their memories”.

To say that the atmosphere at Oradour is haunted is to understate by a million-fold what happened there on June 10, 1944, and before that, and since then. The air itself holds atoms of the lives lived in the village, of the attackers, of those who survived, of those who posted plaques, of those who visit. Layers and layers, decades of haunting. It’s hard to imagine that it will ever not be haunted.

We need that though, don’t we? Places that demand we remember, that we remind each other of what happened, and why. Given the length of human history, and the history of humans, there are many more of these places than we acknowledge.

Jo Teeuwisse’s Ghosts of History project places WWII photos inside modern photos of the same locales. In some photos, people from the 1940s look at people from 2012.

Except, of course, they don’t really see each other. View Ms. Teeuwisse’s entire collection here.



Ordinary grace.

My book club read Ordinary Grace this month, by Minnesota’s own William Kent Krueger. The author voices the opening pages in this trailer, quoting Aeschylus: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain – which cannot forget – falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

It’s a beautiful book, beautifully written, its characters demonstrating grace through their actions page by page. Sometimes, through their choices not to act. We spent some time talking about the difference between “ordinary” grace and “awful” grace — the kind of grace that is bestowed upon us versus the grace we earn through endurance, by living a life grounded in the realities of  relationship and circumstance.

No conclusions drawn; I’m still thinking. The hallmark of a really good book.