WILMINGTON — The 75th anniversary this winter of the Allies’ liberation of Nazi death camps in World War II is an especially opportune time for Dr. Paul Moke to present his talk, “Quakers and the Holocaust: Pathways of Conscience in Vichy, France, 1938-1942.”
Moke, professor of political science and criminal justice, is this semester’s first speaker in Wilmington College’s Office of Campus Ministry Quaker Lecture Series. He will speak Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in the T. Canby Jones Meetinghouse, Boyd Cultural Arts Center.
His presentation examines the story of volunteers from the American Friends Service Committee who aided stateless refugees in Vichy France during World War II. 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,” Moke said.
His presentation will delve into the questions: “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?”
Moke noted that 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.