God in My Ceiling!

Lisa eventually arrived and we spent a wild evening talking and shrinking M&S lemon and lime. She noticed the blue tinge on my lip. ‘Yes,ā€™ I replied. ‘Battered-wife chic. It’s all the rage. She didn’t get it and I didn’t expect her to.

We discussed religion – a subject close to my cradle-Catholic heart. ‘It’s as though we’re all down here and God’s greatness is up there, beyond the ceiling.’ (Flawed metaphor – a bit underambitious – the ceiling. Whatever.)

‘Whoa, God’s in my ceiling and I’ve never even noticed.’

She doesn’t appreciate my quirky sense of humour. She dislikes people who laugh at Christians. (She doesn’t consider me, as a Catholic, a ‘legitimate’ Christian). I said that the best defence against this was to learn to laugh at yourself. Then you immunise yourself against the mockery of others. Lisa does not seem to realize that I was initiated into the Holy Roman Empire the moment I was born and have had this stuff shoved down my throat throughout my life. Lisa always begins by saying, ‘I don’t mean to be patronising but…’ Well, actually, Lisa that is precisely what you are doing. I know far more about theology than most people I encounter. I’ve only spent my whole life immersed in it.

But I cannot deny Lisa has faith and bucketfuls of goodness. Wherever that comes from doesn’t matter to me. There was only one problem with the evening: Lisa’s determination to govern the course of the conversation. After describing to be in minute detail the occasion upon which she had kicked a psych nurse in the shin by accident when she was in hospital and they were trying to forcibly eject her from the nurses’ station (That is their sanctuary. A patient puts herself in peril by simply hovering on the threshold), she snapped, ‘Anyway, I don’t want to talk about hospital anymore’ as though I had been the one who had done something wrong. I hadn’t been the one to initiate the conversation. And she makes me feel guilty, she makes me feel as though she is saying, ‘I determine the course of this conversation. You are incidental to the whole process. I am the focus.’

I wanted to snap, ‘Well, don’t bring the bloody subject up then.’ It seems so manipulative and I resent that.

I made Lisa watch the third of Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution (videod months ago and I didn’t want to watch it alone) – dealing primarily with the corruption of the SS guards. Irma Griese was mentioned. She was a female SS Guard. Her father didn’t approve of her membership of the SS. He disowned her, I believe. He was a simple farmer and she was a simple farm girl and that, presumably, is all he thought she’d ever be. And then the SS took and corrupted her. Or did they? Was the capacity for sadism in her already? Was the SS merely the catalyst? She took pleasure in shooting random prisoners, in beating them, in sexually abusing them. Real pleasure. For her, it was a recreational pursuit. I don’t understand and do I even want to? She was hanged at Nuremberg. A banal phrase entered my head, ‘Her poor parents’ and then I wondered if they could have done anything to prevent her from turning out the way she did. (That whole ‘blame the parents’ thing is a tad simplistic in a case like this.)

And then I recall that she was twenty-two years old when she was executed. This would mean that she was only nine when the Nazis came to power. Not, I stress that I am attempting to excuse her. She was one of the more ‘successful’ products of their indoctrination and, as membership of the Hitler Jugend was compulsory, I suppose there was little her parents could do to intervene in the situation.

Lisa was surprised that the SS Guards of the camp spent so much time indulging in ‘recreational activities’ – alcohol, drugs, women aplenty were provided for them. ‘Good God,’ Lisa gasped. (‘I never concentrated much in my history classes at school,’ she told me).

The camp Kommandant, Hoess, lived with his wife and four children in a nice little house on the outskirts of the camp. I’d like to know how they turned out. Hoess, according to his prison memoirs, remained unrepentant to the end.

There were frightening incongruities too, The documentary revealed that there was an area of the camp known to the prisoners as ‘Canada’ in which belongings of the Jews and other victims of the Nazis who had been murdered in the gas chambers were sorted and the valuables set aside. One Jewish woman developed a kind of rudimentary ‘friendship’ with one of the SS guards. He declared his ‘love’ for her, even whilst he was assisting in the annihilation of other members of her race. Love or a twisted kind of infatuation? Whatever. This ‘love’ drove him to risk his own life in order to save her sister from the gas chamber. He didn’t, however, manage to save her nieces and nephews.

‘I’m sorry I made you watch that,’ I said as we embraced and she left. ‘Not terribly pleasant images to fall asleep to.’

‘Made me? It’s not as if you shackled me to the sofa.’

‘No, and anyway, you made me watch EastEnders, so I’d say we were about even.’

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