Homeland Security reveals its plan to vastly expand the enforcement machinery.
Raids in the early morning, by armed forces to which there can be no resistance, forces that present heavy weaponry but no warrants to establish a cause for their actions.
People dragged from their homes, made to disappear into a system for which there is no legal rebuke, no adequate justice, no due process, no defense.
I’ve read these accounts with a sense of dread exacerbated by my knowledge of a specific history: the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s. Immediately I began pulling books off my shelves. Although I referred to the indeces for “Gestapo” and “deportation,” I found I could open any of these histories at any page and find direct comparisons to what is going on here, in America.
The Nazis had a dark term for what they were doing: nacht und nebel–night and fog. Human beings of all ages, many of them Jews, were made to disappear into the night and fog and would never be heard from again.
One morning we heard that Sonia had just been arrested; she had apparently been the victim of another woman’s jealousy; at any rate, someone had denounced her. She sent a message…asking for a pullover and some silk stockings to be sent on; no more requests came after that. The blonde Czech girl who lived with Jausion vanished. A few days afterwards, when Bella was asleep in her boyfriend’s arms, the Gestapo knocked on the door at dawn and took her away too…We didn’t know much about the camps, but the way these gay and beautiful girls simply vanished into the blue, without a word, was terrifying enough. Jausion and his friends still came to the [Cafe] Flore, and even went on sitting at the same table, where they talked among themselves in an agitated, hectic sort of way. But there was no mark on the red banquette to indicate the empty place at their side. This was what seemed to me the most unbearable thing about any absence: that is was, precisely a nothingness.
–Simone de Beauvoir, quoted in Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944, by Ian Ousby
One day you might phone a friend and the phone would ring for a long time in an empty flat. You would go round and ring the doorbell, but no-one would answer it. If the concierge forced the door, you would find two chairs standing close together in the hall with the fag-ends of German cigarettes on the floor between their legs. If the wife or mother of the man who had vanished had been present at his arrest, she would tell you that he had been taken away by very polite Germans, like those who asked the way in the street. and when she went to ask what had happened to them at the offices in the Avenue Foch of the Rue des Saussaies [Gestapo headquarters] she would be politely received and sent away with comforting words.
–Jean-Paul Sartre, quoted in Occupation
Since I do know an awful lot about the German occupation of France, I also know that neither de Beauvoir nor Sartre were heroes of any kind of resistance. Indeed, like a despicable group of French celebrities, including Coco Chanel, Albert Camus, Jean Cocteau and Maurice Chevalier, they survived and even “flourished” (as Ousby put it) during the Occupation.
We Americans will do better against our imitation Nazis in the White House.