The Consequences of The Drive for a Perfect Race
Throughout my life, I have never had any problem saying I was of German ancestry. I did not realize, while I was growing up, what my relatives had done to the rest of this world. As I have matured and become educated about World War II, however, I have become almost embarrassed to admit that I am of German heritage. I am extremely grateful that during high school I have not been discriminated against like some minorities have been.
World War II is one of the biggest atrocities in our history. This conflict involved every part of our world during the years 1939 to 1945. To completely understand the great loss inflicted by the Nazis, and to entirely understand why this war should be remembered, one must understand that Hitler’s view of Europe was clearly one without Jews. He believed in a perfect race. Anyone who was different from him and his followers was to be killed. In Hungary, the Germans were able to exterminate all of the Jews. Likewise, in Austria and Czechoslovak only about 10,000 Jews now remain throughout the countryside, despite the 200,000 that lived there before the war. Over three and a half million Jews starved to death or were killed in concentration camps all over Europe (Franklin l).
It must be remembered that the execution of innocent people was not a side effect of the war but one of the primary goals of the Nazis. It was a well–planned effort by Hitler to dispose of every trace of the Jewish religion in Europe. No other group has ever been condemned to die as the Jews had been. In Hitler’s mind, Jews were the most important enemy, the cause of all of Germany’s economic problems. He stopped at nothing to make them pay for causing these "problems." Hitler diverted trains essential to the war effort to load people on and carry them to their deaths at the nearest concentration camp.
Recently, my grandfather and I traveled to Italy and Germany. We visited Foggia, Italy, the city in which he was stationed during the war. This was my grandfather’s third trip to Europe, but the first time he had revisited Foggia. He told me that as much as he did not want to go back and relive what had happened over the three years he had been there, it was important for him not to forget and for me to learn so I would be able to pass on the information to my generation and those to come. We continued to travel to Germany. One of our stops was Dauchau, a concentration camp outside of Munich. Although this camp was not large like Auschwitz, it was still very disturbing. The atmosphere made me nauseous and ashamed. The feelings I had haunt me to this day. When I asked my grandfather what was the most frustrating part of the war he replied, "50 years ago I fought to stop hate, and today I still see it everyday, on the news and in every aspect of our lives. It frustrates me that so many of my friends and family died for a cause that means nothing anymore" (Norbert Mechenbier February 8, 2000). Still, fifty years later hatred haunts our world. Even now people are discriminated against because they are of a different race, religion, or social life style. In 1995, the United States Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation found that 7,947 injuries due to discrimination were reported in the United States. Of those incidents, 4,821 were based on race, 1,277 on religion, and 1,019 on sexual orientation (United States Census Bureau 2).
A short time ago our country elected a new president. This means many changes for our country. President Bush has made it clear that he will not accept violence of this kind in our country and will attempt to hinder it all over the world. "We must all hear the universal call to like your neighbor just like you like to be liked yourself." In a speech at Bob Jones University, President Bush put and interesting twist on the Golden Rule. "We believe in opportunity for all Americans: Rich and poor, black and white ...." shows that our country and our president will not tolerate hate. In taking a stand against today’s violence we are remembering what happened during World War II and preventing it from happening again (Jacob n.p.).
Monuments stand today to remind us of the mistakes my ancestors made. But is it enough? More needs to be done to help us remember the terror that the Jewish people faced for those seven years. I feel I can help remember and prevent this tragedy from occurring again in avoiding racial slurs that I casually use. This even includes comments that will hurt someone’s feelings. I can also educate myself and read about The Holocaust, Hitler, atomic weapons, Pearl Harbor, and other topics that involved World War II. I am proud to say that I have begun this process in reading Elie Wiesel’s novels Dawn and Night. As I continue to read his works I hope I can learn from his experiences and ensure that his knowledge and thoughts are passed on to future generations. We must protect and preserve the memory of those who died and how they died. It is easy for the United States to forget the horrors of this conflict since the war was not on our soil. We are forgetting what began World War II; remembering is the only way to prevent a recurrence or an even greater disaster.
The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by
the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the
Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.