William Styron’s 1979 novel “Sophie’s Choice” stands as an iconic description of a moral dilemma pushed to the furthest extreme of human cruelty and torment. A Nazi physician stands at a train station fronting massed and miserable Jews in 1943, directing some left, some right. Word has spread that one group is bound straight for the crematorium, while the other will be spared for the moment by going on to Auschwitz.
Sophie is a Polish Catholic who has landed here for smuggling a ham for her ailing mother in violation of wartime rules reserving all meat for the military. As she approaches the doctor with her young daughter and son in tow, the following conversation ensues:
Doctor: You’re so beautiful. I’d like to get you into bed with me. I know you’re a Polack, but are you also another one of these filthy communists?
Sophie: I’m not Jewish!. Or my children—they’re not Jewish either!...