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by Pierre Sauvage
August 28, 1998
I am heart-broken at the loss of Harry James Cargas. I miss him, and will always cherish the memory of our friendship. As I wrote to the family, I adored Harry Jamesóhis warmth, his integrity, his sense of humor (I loved that). Iím not much of a hugger, but with Harry James, the hug always seemed right.
A member of the Board of Advisers of the Chambon Foundation from the very first, Harry James will continue to be my trusted adviser.
In Peace Indeed, a Festschrift in honor of Harry James Cargas assembled by Zev Garber, I expressed my feelings thus as follows:
Do the righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust have spiritual descendants?
I am sometimes asked about the children of the rescuers: What is left? What, if anything, has been passed on?
It is a wonderful question, to which I do not know the answer. I have an impression: yes, something was passed on. To begin with, this makes sense. A characteristic of many of the rescuers Iíve known is the respect they had for parental figures, who had set some sort of a moral example. How could their children not feel the same and not similarly be shaped by the values their parents put into action?
And what does any of this have to do with my friend Harry James Cargas? Simply this: if the righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust have spiritual descendants they are Christians like Harry James.
I have to admit that Iím not entirely comfortable making this affirmation. Iím not sure Harry James has ever really been put to the test. I know that I certainly donít have to go into hiding again for the foreseeable future, at least not for any reason connected to my being Jewish.
But should that day ever happen in America in my lifetime, I might well find my way to St. Louis and get in line outside Harry Jamesí house. Moreover, should he have by then moved on to the greener pastures of immortality, I trust that he will feel compelled to resurrect once again and do what needs to be done.
My confidence about him has little to do with his revolutionary theological stancesóalthough this is fertile ground for the future, and I do not minimize its importance.
My feelings have even less to do with his scholarship about the Holocaust. I have absolutely no confidence whatever that Holocaust scholars would act any better in that sort of a pinch than anybody else. Indeed, to the extent that they are academics, the odds are that they would act worse. ďIt takes a great deal of elevation of thought to produce a tiny elevation of life,Ē said my other friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said much about these things that needs to be said.
Harry James, the reasons Iím going to be knocking on your door should the need arise is: a) the somewhat public pressure that I am putting on you now increases the chances that youíll open up; b) as a further inducement, I promise to introduce you to Elie Wiesel [this was an inside joke; Elie Wiesel was an old friend of Harry's]; and c) my judgment of such things is based above all on my sense of peopleís character.
And on that limb, Iím willing to venture, at least rhetorically.
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