I went down to Chicago this weekend and, beginning to doze on the train, I recalled reading: "It was frightening to see how people felt justified to discriminate, how that attitude of superiority was drilled into ten-year-old children ... . More than once she'd overheard comments on streetcars or in restaurants about Jews smelling bad." And, suddenly, I couldn't remember if I had read that in Hegi's Stones from the River, or if it had been in the article about Kurt Epstein, the Czech Olympian, that Tom referred to when he was considering the contrast between pictures of health and beauty and images of concentration camps.
When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, I worked in the stacks at the university library. The section I worked in contained the transcripts of the Nuremberg war trials, complete with supporting documents. Over the course of the year, I read many of the transcripts and background documents. Out of all that horror, the medical experiments are what I remember best, especially the experiments that used Jewish prisoners to determine the probable effects on pilots of bailing out at high altitudes. What the German "scientists" were interested in were the effects of extreme cold and a sudden loss of atmospheric pressure on the human body. And, in my mind's eye at least, they weren't even testing protective gear, they were just watching people freeze to death or die slowly from lack of oxygen.
That was a long time ago. This morning, I'm trying to imagine Tom's canvassing attorney, sitting in my office, telling me: "You must have been one of those 19-year-olds who read the transcripts of the Nuremberg war trials. Nuremberg sounds familiar. I promise to look that up."