We were both regarding the same question: what did he do during the war?
p. 74 In this quotation, Alex refers pointedly to the connection between the past and the present via the cipher of his grandfather.
- [“]She secured all of the things that she had hidden, and she brought them to her house. It was her punishment.[”] “For what?” “For surviving,” she said.
p. 189 Lista explains to Alex, his grandfather and Jonathan the effects of guilt on the survivor of the atrocities she has described. She uses the third person and it is implied but not made explicit that when she talks about her sister, she talks about herself. The use of the third person has the effect of giving distance on events and this also helps to depict her sense of alienation from society all the more.
- Even the most delinquent students read The Book of Antecedents without skipping a word, for they knew that they too would one day inhabit its pages ….
p. 196 In this passage and many others concerned with Trachimbrod, Foer recreates a past (through fiction) that has been liquidated by the Nazis. Through these stories and the rich characterizations, the inhabitants of this shtetl are given a life at least temporarily removed from the de-humanizing process of anti-semitism.
- The novel is the art form that burns most easily.
p. 201 This relatively short sentence captures the truth of Nazi book burning and reminds the readers how art and fiction has been and still is regarded as threatening by totalitarian states.
- “You are all cowards because you live in a world that is ‘once removed’, if I may excerpt you.”
p. 240 Alex accuses Jonathan of the same reaction that he goes on to accuse himself of. This in turn reminds the readers of how central concepts of bravery and cowardice are to the narrative that is set in the Second World War, where the Nazis made the villagers make unimaginable and inhuman choices.
- “I was the worst father. I desired to remove him from everything that was bad, but instead I gave him badness upon badness. A father is always responsible for how his son is.”
p. 247 Alex’s grandfather explains how guilty he feels for how his son (and Alex’s father) is now violent with his children (with Alex and Little Igor). This perspective also leads us to consider the anti-semitic violence wielded by the Nazis during the Second World War, and to remember that this violence did not occur in a vacuum as it too has a history.
- They knew what they were doing, they were so logical.
p. 247 Alex’s grandfather recalls the events that lead up to the murder of the Jewish people in his village and what he sees as his betrayal of Herschel. At this particular point, he explains how the Nazis were thorough in this genocide.
- “ … and the man said they are all in the synagogue because he did not know Herschel or did not know that Herschel was a Jew the General shot him in his head and I could feel Herschel’s hand touching mine very lightly …”
p. 250 This passage is unbearable for the account it makes of the humiliation and murder of Jewish people and this is heightened by the use of language and by the decision made to run the sentences together. This has the effect of evoking a tension and a restrained panic.
- They hadn’t forgotten, but accommodated. Memory took the place of terror.
p. 262 This quotation acts as a warning against complacency and inertia, while also drawing on the historical truth of genocide where only the gift of prophecy for the victims could have prevented what happened.
- “(And here it is becoming harder and harder not to yell: GO AWAY! RUN WHILE YOU CAN, FOOLS! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES)”
P. 269 This aside by the narrator (Jonathan) (and the author, Foer) may be related to the previously cited quotation as both recognize the truth of how these people, who are represented by characters, now have no means of escape from genocide.