By Eyall Press
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Army’s Criminal Investigation Division in 2004, one year before President Bush honored Paul Rusesabagina. Darby’s reward was to be called a traitor and to receive a string of death threats that prompted him to move out of his hometown. The speed with which people like Darby are ostracized even in democratic societies shows how much easier it is to admire such nonconformists from a distance than up close, when the beliefs being challenged are one’s own. It also illustrates how acts of conscience that some view as heroic may strike others as acts of betrayal, subversion, or irresponsibility.
If an official is an official, he cannot simply act according to his own opinion. ” As indelicate as the sentiment may seem, the patrolman was right to wonder what people would have said. Irrespective of its consequences, a law had been enacted, and good citizens in orderly Switzerland obeyed the rules. Truth be told, when it came to refugees fleeing Nazi terror, the orderly Swiss were not alone. “You are a consular officer, in the early years of a diplomatic career that you hope will lead to an ambassadorship,” the diplomat Richard Holbrooke has written.
Its author was Gustav Studer, a white-haired bureaucrat with dark-framed glasses who, in response to inquiries posed by Heinrich Rothmund about reports that refugees were still getting into St. Gallen, had launched an investigation to determine why the identity papers of so many Jews in Switzerland indicated they’d arrived just before August 19, 1938, when the new restrictions had gone into effect. Under questioning, Sidney Dreifuss, the head of the relief agency to which Erich Billig had been taken, admitted that he’d been directed to falsify the dates of Jews who crossed the border after this date by the police captain who’d shown up at his office that morning—and many other times, it appeared.