Sleeping with the enemy
September 27, 2013 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed reading.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:47 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

That is a good find. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tasmanian_Kris at 9:14 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed reading this, thanks for bringing it here.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:23 PM on September 27, 2013

Wow, that was deeply fascinating. But there was something unsettling about it too. It read like a romance novel, but instead of love transforming our hero and heroine, it just seemed to make them even more relentlessly self-absorbed. And the guy leaving his kids... with so much anger and bitterness on their side... while he ends up cheating on the woman he moved heaven and earth to get. Yeeuch.

She doesn't sound like much of a prize either, what her willful blindness to Nazism (not surprising, I guess, what with that disgusting mom of hers who happily sent Jews to the camps). By the way, that story of how the mother stole the Jewish doctor's clothes and replaced them with turnips made me so angry. And I bet she thought she was so clever, too. God, fuck these people.

It really feels like the dark side of a romance novel, doesn't it? It almost seems that the moral of this particular story is that romantic love makes you an asshole.

On the bright side, it really makes me appreciate Casablanca more.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

By the way, that story of how the mother stole the Jewish doctor's clothes and replaced them with turnips made me so angry.

I was slightly astonished that it was long shelf life vegetables when it could have been dirt. Someone wasn't smart enough to prepare for guns before butter.
posted by jaduncan at 1:39 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is so full of the bleakness of films set on the Continent in that era. It is a sad but somewhat distasteful story. I can't be dispassionate about stories of Nazis or collaborators or the vile survivors who turned in their neighbors to the Gestapo. Although I do know that those were terrible times and no one among us can with absolute certainty declare what they "would never do" when faced with compelling circumstances, I have little sympathy for this pair.

Thank you for posting this, gaspode. The story of finding the letters and piecing together the story is excellent and it does trace for us how sad a grand romance can actually be. Despite the fact that their circumstances could hardly be more different, with regard to the sad self-centeredness of their choice and the lonely exile that followed, this story of grand romance reminded of the Windsors.
posted by Anitanola at 1:56 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

The most remarkable thing about this is how unremarkable it is. Usually when we receive stories of WWII we receive them because they contain heroism or some useful moral example. But Johann and Lisette are utterly ordinary. In a city with no German women and few French men they fall into the thing that men and women have fallen into since the beginning of time, and they cling to one another with the ferocity that often emerges from being told you cannot have the one thing you want most.

In the background, the German occupiers are decent and well regarded, and the ordinary Parisians often cooperate with them even in betrayal. Johann and Lisette do have their triumphant union, although the romance novel would not have the pre-existing German family or the ongoing chain of affairs. But these are not heroes; they are just two flawed people whose story comes down to us at random, because someone thought to pack it up neatly before putting it away.

We know that our contemporaries are imperfect because we are immersed in their stories, but it's unusual for such random and uninspiring stories to survive the decades like this. We have so many stories of the French as heroic resisters and the German soldiers as scheming brutes or trapped victims of their own military complex that it is a little astonishing to see them with such relatively normal strengths and flaws. People back then really were just like us. Who'd have thought it?
posted by localroger at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

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