What is Human?
By:  Kevin McBee
Clemmons, NC


 

Indifference is not so much a gesture of looking away--of choosing to be passive--as it is an active disinclination to feel. Indifference shuts down the humane, and does so deliberately, with all the strength deliberateness demands. Indifference is as determined--and as forcefully muscular--as any blow.

-Cynthia Ozick

By definition, a bystander is one who is present at some event without participating in it. This "passive" attitude has spawned some of the most horrific atrocities ever visited upon the face of this earth. The Holocaust is no different. Men, women and children were carried off by the hundreds of thousands, brutally murdered or forced into slave labor camps, and turned into cruel mockeries of humanity, yet few had the courage to save them or even protest their treatment. An entire nation fell silent as millions died, and the only objection was the collective death rattle of the fallen. This is why the Holocaust must be remembered.

Without the memories, the stories, the call of the dead, how can such an event be stopped in the future? Although all who hear the stories and the pleas of survivors call the actions of Hitler and his legions insanity, do they truly realize the immensity of the implications set forth by such actions? That one man and a small number of followers could rise to power and put in motion the systematic and brutally efficient extermination and dehumanization of entire sets of people cannot and should never be ignored.

Although America as a nation prides itself on the equality and well being of its inhabitants, still ignorance is at large. This man-made demon runs rampant amongst America's youth. Some have only heard the term "Holocaust" once or twice, and the word itself is cold and unfamiliar. Some even believe such an event never happened. Is this situation so different from the ignorance that prevailed in World War 2-era Germany? As seen in Elie Wiesel's heart-wrenching classic Night, many in that period thought that such a thing could never happen, that no one in that day and age could commit such an incredible crime against his own. This false sense of security led millions willingly to their death, while their neighbors sat idly by hoping to avoid the same wrath visited upon their friends and countrymen.

Even with the programs in schools set up to educate the billions of children worldwide about the Holocaust, is it truly effective? Until the students reach high school, much of the information relative and important is not to be found. A lucky few have access to other sources, such as Holocaust museums or parents, friends and relatives who realize the importance of such an education, and these select few grow up knowing and believing in the gravity of remembrance, but how many children only skim the surface? What of the larger portion of the masses that are deprived such an emulsion in the facts?

To lose sight of the importance and significance of the Holocaust now is unacceptable, especially as the generation of survivors and eyewitnesses end. The devaluation of an individual on the basis of creed, race, or any other factor cannot be allowed to reign free. In this day and age many still believe that events like the Holocaust are impossible, that none would dare such a deliberate and evil act. Are memories so short? Only a few years ago did the "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Bosnia begin, and how many died before someone finally stepped in to stop the inhumane killing of a race of people deemed "inferior"?

The only weapons against such men and women who would commit such treason against mankind cannot be found in any armory, nor in any gun safe. The only weapons are knowledge and remembrance. Without these two grim soldiers, fighting on in the hearts of today's youth, what can be expected? It is imperative the lessons learned from the Holocaust not be wasted on deaf ears. Only by the continual and unceasing propagation of these ideals, these memories, can evil be staved off and relegated to the pit from whence it came.

The value of diversity is worth more than any precious stone or rare metal. Too many times man has let his eyes be clouded with the specter of self-preservation, the lust for life at other's expense, that his eyes cannot see far enough into the future to find that his own continued existence depends on this diversity. Knowing this, one cannot insulate or isolate himself from the pain of others. If the inhumanity and the practices employed by Hitler and his ilk are embraced once again, then the world is in for a perilous journey.

As evidenced by the still burning fires of September Eleventh, there are those who would seek to undermine this unity, this united cause. They must not be allowed to succeed. Hopefully this event served to further awareness of the hatred that still runs rampant, and wake America and other nations from their peaceful and untroubled suburban lifestyles. This clarion call may well be more beneficial to the nation than detrimental. None can ignore the thousands of Americans killed on their own soil by fanatical believers in yet another insane cause. Unfortunately, some did not learn. Even in our country racism and prejudice dwells. Muslim groups and many who wore the traditional headwear of their faith were persecuted. Sometimes openly, mostly underhandedly, but persecuted all the same. If ignorance can rear its ugly head in this form, can it not produce the same effects seen years ago?

Education is the key. There is no other way to put the fact than just that. Without education man degenerates into a savage animal, caged and uncomfortable with his surroundings. Like an animal he lashes out, and woe be to those who he finds in his path. If the generations to come cannot glean the necessary information from the generations before them, can a second Holocaust be far behind?

 

Works Cited

Ozick, Cynthia. http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/people/bystand.htm. "A Teachers Guide to The Holocaust" 4/17/2002

Wiesel, Elie. (1960) Night. New York: Bantam Books.

 


The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.

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