Randy Susan Mey­erss most recent book, The Com­fort of Lies, is now avail­able. She is also the author of The Murderer’s Daugh­ters, a final­ist for the Mass­a­chu­setts Book Award. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Jus­tice is bet­ter than chival­ry if we can­not have both.” — Alice Stone Blackwell

The Inter­net is a tricky beast. Sit­ting alone, cozy in ragged sweat­pants, writ­ing while curled on the couch, it’s easy to believe that you’re cloaked in iso­la­tion, even as you spill on that most pub­lic of forums. Thus, I hes­i­tate before com­mit­ting words online. After read­ing a recent well-inten­tioned post — about an SS offi­cer — a piece writ­ten by a friend of a dear friend, an arti­cle meant in good will, I wres­tled more than usual.

The essay focused on a par­tic­u­lar slice of the copi­ous research this first-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can author did while writ­ing a nov­el (which I have not read) about Ger­many before, dur­ing, and after WWII, from the point of view of a young Ger­man woman who falls in love with a Jew­ish man.

Dur­ing her research, the writer (through her fam­i­ly ties in Ger­many) met with an elder­ly for­mer SS offi­cer — an offi­cer and doc­tor— who the writer con­cludes was sta­tioned on the front lines, not in a camp.

They met in the man’s home, where a Ger­man Mother’s Cross (a pro­gram begun by Hitler, encour­ag­ing Ger­man women to have more Aryan chil­dren, which year­ly — on Hitler’s moth­er’s birth­day — award­ed women cross­es cen­tered with swastikas for fer­til­i­ty) hung on the wall, a meno­rah sat on top of a cab­i­net, and, in an album of wartime shots shared with the author, was a pho­to of the offi­cer stand­ing with Hitler.

The author doesn’t ques­tion these dis­played and shown items: she doesn’t want to dis­com­fort the fam­i­ly mem­ber who arranged the inter­view, upset the doctor’s wife, or con­tin­ue the process of col­lec­tive guilt.” Per­haps the offi­cer was forced into his role, the author sug­gests. The author her­self was a vic­tim of assump­tion, hav­ing been taunt­ed by being called a Nazi because her par­ents were German.

Despite her sin­cere attempt to be fair (“who was I to judge him now?” she asks), after fin­ish­ing the essay I was shak­en. Bad­ly. Before writ­ing a com­ment, I spent hours pon­der­ing the wis­dom of ignor­ing the post ver­sus attempt­ing con­ver­sa­tion. I didn’t want to anger or insult the writer, or pub­licly call her out,’ and thus hes­i­tat­ed to com­mit my feel­ings to pub­lic paper. Still, how­ev­er well-inten­tioned, her words felt like slaps against my his­to­ry. I couldn’t get the essay out of my mind.

Not writ­ing didn’t seem like an option.

Check back tomor­row for the sec­ond install­ment in Col­lec­tive Guilt vs. Col­lec­tive Fear.” Read more about Randy Susan Mey­er­s’s here.

Randy Susan Mey­ers is the best­selling author of Acci­dents of Mar­riage, The Com­fort of Lies, The Murderer’s Daugh­ters, and The Wid­ow of Wall Street. Her books have twice been final­ists for the Mass Book Award and named Must Read Books” by the Mass­a­chu­setts Cen­ter for the Book. She teach­es writ­ing at the Grub Street Writ­ers’ Cen­ter in Boston.