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A BALANCED VIEW OF HUMANKIND / Morton Hunt SOCIOLOGIST SAMUEL OLINER, tweedy, bespectacled, and sUverhaired, is the visual ideal of the smaU-university professor, but his handsome features and thoughtful manner conceal a dark truth—certain horrendous experiences of his chUdhood and teens that are central to his real identity. OUner rarely speaks of them to friends or to coUeagues at Humboldt State University at Areata in northern CaUfornia, but seeking to exorcise the demons of that period from his psyche he wrote a memoir, privately pubUshed in 1979, titled Restless Memories. It opens with an account of the event that destroyed OUner's world and led him, forty years later, to undertake the major work of his Ufe, an ambitious research project, just completed, on the psychological and social factors that make for human altruism. The motivating event, however, exemplified the diametric opposite of altruism. Before dawn on Friday, August 14th, 1942, a convoy of trucks roared into the fetid ghetto of Bobowa, a small town in Carpathia, the primitive southeastern region of Poland. In the crowded ramshackle houses of the ghetto, ringed about by barbed wire, Uved a thousand Jews recently uprooted by German soldiers from their homes in nearby towns and villages; their forced relocation was only a first phase—though none of them knew this—of the Final Solution, the Nazi plan for the extermination of the Jews. When the trucks pulled into the market-place, German Einsatzgruppen leaped out, firing into the air and bellowing, "Alle Juden raus!" ("AU Jews outside!"). Terrified men, women, and chUdren ran into the aUeys and streets, crying and screaming; the soldiers, beating them with rifle-butts, herded them toward the market-place and onto the trucks, which, as fast as they were fiUed, puUed away into the night. In one tiny house a young woman named Ester Oliner, clutching her two young children, whispered desperately to her twelve-yearold stepson, Shmulek, "Run away, my chUd, and save yourself! Hide, hide, hide! They're kiUing us all!" Shmulek, a small blond boy, ran outside in his pajamas, climbed onto the low flat roof of the house, and covered himself with loose boards and rubbish piled there. Below, for hours, all was horror: shrieking, weeping, shouting, gunshots, and the sound of trucks grinding in and out of the market-place. As Oliner's memoir recaUs: 294 · The Missouri Review The sun climbed slowly and the tar paper got warm and soft. Gradually, the shouting, screaming, and occasional gunshots subsided. AU day long, there was the sound of heavy trucks. Hiding there I was, under planks and rubbish, I felt sick. . . .1 drifted into a daze, a sort of dreaming wakefulness, and flies crawled on my ear. Whenever there was a noise close by, my heart beat so hard I thought it would burst. By late afternoon the ghetto was quiet. The people had stopped crying, the Nazis had stopped shouting, and the trucks had stopped roaring in the streets. The ghetto was Uke a ghost town. . . .A feeling of great loneUness filled my body, and I wondered if I were actually dead. Maybe I was dead and my lot through eternity was to lie under these boards and listen to the breeze in absolute stillness. But finally he ventured to emerge. The ghetto was deserted: except for Shmulek, all its inhabitants, including his father and stepmother, grandparents, half-brother and half-sister, were gone. As he would learn a couple of days later, they had all been marched into a pit in the forest at Garbotz, half a dozen mUes to the southeast, and machinegunned ; so had the inhabitants of another nearby ghetto where the rest of his family—his other grandparents, his brother, sister, and uncles—had lived. AU were lying in a tangled mass, now thinly covered by earth, in the huge pit at Garbotz. Ever since the AUied armies overcame the Nazi forces in 1945 and the world learned of the Final Solution, Western intellectuals have sought to understand how seemingly normal Germans could have complacently toUed day in and day out at the task of murdering helpless fellow human beings. It was no news to anyone that humans...


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pp. 194-220
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