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Quaker Lecture Series – Paul Moke
February 24 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EST
Quakers and the Holocaust: Pathways of Conscience in Vichy, France, 1938-1942
Monday, Feburary 24, 7pm, T. Canby Jones Meetinghouse
In this presentation, Paul Moke, professor of political science at Wilmington College, examines the story of volunteers from the American Friends Service Committee who aided stateless refugees in Vichy, France, during WWII. The volunteers, who included two Friends from the Wilmington Yearly Meeting, tell a story with two conflicting narratives. The first, involving individuals in leadership positions, stresses the engagement of officials on both sides of the conflict on a “non-political basis” in order to move foodstuffs across battle lines. The second, involving persons who distributed the supplies in concentration camps, includes clandestine efforts to smuggle Jewish children out of the camps and across international boundaries to safety.
The ethical choices reflected in this story raise compelling questions about Quaker peacemaking perspectives and the behavior of institutional and individual bystanders in times of humanitarian crisis. What psychological and sociological interests motivated the Quaker actors? How should Quaker organizations respond to those within their ranks whose consciences persuade them to commit acts of civil disobedience? Under what conditions, if any, does the Quaker tradition of “seeing that of God in everyone” represent collaboration with evil?
The many similarities between the plight of stateless refugees during the war and those confronting refugees today in India, the Middle East, Europe, and North America make it important to develop answers to these questions.