Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you
try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people living
for today… John Lennon beckons the listener to join him, so the world will
live as one. His idealistic lyrics are revolutionary in suggesting the
abolishment of nationalism and religion. Such concepts would prevent a
future Holocaust by obliterating these devices of discrimination. This may
be an unrealistic proposal, like saying that utopia is possible. Yet, the
mind is the only entity complex enough to comprehend utopia, and every
ambition begins in the mind.
The concept of world citizenship is such an attainable impossibility that it challenges one just to consider it. Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for… One renowned peacemaker, Mahatma Ghandi, has also suggested this prospect, "Some day we must extend the national law to the universe, even as we have extended the family law to form nations – a larger family" (Wood). In remembering the battle lines drawn between nations during World War II, one sees the vicious roles countries played in declining to defend the Jews. “Even though the Nazis screened the death camps from the general population, Nazi brutalities were overt and mass death was an ever-present reality” (Marrus, 101). This betrayal of the Jews is especially evident in Eastern Europe, where Poles and Czechs pleaded ignorance to the reality of Hitler’s actions. In a world not segregated by national borders, there would be no Poland or Czechoslovakia to turn-away persecuted refugees. A modern application of this point would provide a solution to the Middle East crisis that has taken thousands of lives over the last century. The struggle between Israel and Palestine over land would be finalized if national borders ceased to exist.
Religion is yet another device used to categorize people. Though created with peaceful intentions, it spurs conflict more than maintains equilibrium. No religion too, Imagine all the people living life in peace… The Nazis believed in Aryan supremacy, which was their logic behind ethnic cleansing. To Adolf Hitler, “Aryan” became defined as one of German background who is blond-haired and blue-eyed. This distinction explicitly labeled Jews as non-Aryan. Consequently, religion provided a mechanism for the Nazis to detach from the Jews, and also a loophole to perhaps escape the consequences of mass murder. Jewish philosopher Emil L. Fackenheim relates this story which demonstrates religion’s injustice. In 1961, Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann was on trial for his life, accused of crimes against the Jews. He claimed to be “just following orders” when he deported European Jews to concentration camps. A Baptist missionary went to the trial in Jerusalem to try to convert Eichmann. Journalists questioned the missionary as to whether a last-minute conversion would permit Eichmann into heaven, and the missionary replied yes. Then they asked if the Jews, who died helplessly under his command, were in heaven. The missionary said no (Fackenheim 112). Our world is divided into close-minded religious groups, and the Nazis exploited this division. Though theological groups are peaceful internally, they clash when released into the jumble of society. Instead of respecting differences in worship, they ultimately compete to prove the impossible; that for which there is no evidence, only faith. The Nazis persecuted the Jews for this difference of belief, and set out to destroy them.
Even so, these future changes alone cannot prevent another Holocaust. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” warned philosopher George Santayana (Rogasky 180). Thus emphasis is pressed upon learning about the massacre of the Jews, so as to assure, “Never Again.” Many monuments have been raised worldwide to remember the abandonment of the Jews during World War II. One prominent memorial sits tranquilly on Congress Street in Boston. Six translucent columns glow eerily like beacons in the night. Stepping inside the first, engraved “Sobibor” in the black granite base, one is engulfed in a swirl of smoke rising from hot embers. A pane of glass is imprinted with the echoes of survivors’ voices. “ ‘Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend.’ – Gerda Weissman Klein, Holocaust Survivor” (Leong). The surface of the four outer glass walls is obscured with miniscule writing. Upon intimate examination, one identifies the writing as an immeasurable list of seven digit numbers, as if tattooed onto prisoners’ arms. The lines and loops of the numbers seem to melt into bodies, each representing a single soul, stacked upon one another. Eyes begin to drift upwards realizing that this is only the first tier of numbered walls, and five more sections are built above to model a smokestack. Head tilting back, the numbers bleed together. One is no longer able to distinguish a single one of the six million Jews killed in hatred. The effect is dizzying and one gasps for breath, choking on smoke and tears, searching for solace in the square of black night that hangs far out of reach above. Walking through the six smokestacks representing each of the Nazi regime’s death camps, the experience is hammered into one’s existence. The mind absorbs succinct blows of this reality as it begins to reveal itself through sheer magnitude of numbers and haunting testimonies of survivors. The quantity “six million” is palpable in the ambience of the memorial.
A distinct pattern of persecution carves into the history of the Jewish people. Today this sore remains exposed and vulnerable to hate. Pesach, or Passover, is an annual Jewish remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. Part of the celebration includes a ceremony called the Seder, which tells the story of the Jews’ escape. One virtue of Judaism mentioned in the Seder is the ability to accept each step in the road to liberation as the entire liberation, then continue on to the next one. It is recognized that such a task cannot be completed all at once; patience and perseverance are ancient elements of Judaic life. The same mindset could establish utopia in our world. It cannot happen all at once, but in this lifetime significant progress can be made. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, And the world will live as one.
Lennon, John. “Imagine.” Imagine. EMD/CAPITOL, 1971.
Leong, Sze Tsung. The New England
Holocaust Memorial. Friends of the New England Holocaust Memorial. 12 Apr.
Rogasky, Barbara. Smoke and Ashes. New
York: Holiday House, 1988.
Wood, Jeff. Building With Books.org.
Building with Books. 25 Apr. 2002.
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