Ed­i­tor’s let­ter

The Week (US) - - 3 - Mark Gimein

When the Nazis oc­cu­pied Hun­gary, one of their first or­ders of busi­ness was to round up the Jews. A notably mov­ing ac­count of this pe­riod comes in a book called Mas­quer­ade, writ­ten by Ti­vadar Soros—the father of the phi­lan­thropist George Soros. The el­der Soros, a lawyer in Bu­dapest, tells the story of how the Nazis sum­moned the Jewish lawyers in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der. The first day, it was those whose last names started with A–C. By the end of the week, they reached G. Ti­vadar did not wait to find out if he was prom­i­nent enough to make the list when they reached S. He and the 14-year-old George went into hid­ing— George’s mother and brother hid sep­a­rately—and sur­vived the war. Those who thought they had no choice but to queue up in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der did not.

I thought of that story this week. In Brazil, the world’s third­most pop­u­lous democ­racy, Jair Bol­sonaro, a proud ad­mirer of the coun­try’s for­mer mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, won the first round of pres­i­den­tial vot­ing. A prom­i­nent Saudi dis­si­dent seems to have been brazenly kid­napped and dis­mem­bered. Soros him­self has been in the news, too. (See Talking Points.) A man who for years was hated by the hard left for op­pos­ing com­mu­nism in ev­ery form is now a bo­gey­man for the hard right; fringe groups spread false sto­ries of how this Holo­caust sur­vivor col­lab­o­rated with the Nazis. With re­pres­sive regimes ris­ing around the world, the march of au­toc­racy has the aura of in­evitabil­ity—an im­pres­sion dic­ta­tors and would-be dic­ta­tors en­cour­age, just as the Nazis fos­tered the il­lu­sion that there was no choice but to line up for de­por­ta­tion and ex­e­cu­tion. But the rise of au­toc­racy is not in­evitable. Bad as this week has been for democ­racy, it’s a good week to note the les­son of Mas­quer­ade: That even in the dark­est times, there are al­ways choices, al­ter­na­tive paths of jus­tice and san­ity for those who have enough wits about them not to wait pa­tiently for their name to be called. Man­ag­ing ed­i­tor

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