Remember the Holocaust
When German philosopher Georg Friedrich
Wilhelm Hegel said, "We learn from history that we do not learn from
history," he was asserting that despite man's devastating and tragic
history, human nature and society still refuses to change in its wake. No
atrocity serves to testify to Hegel's position more than the horror that
was the Holocaust. By the Holocaust's end, eleven million people were
exterminated, and countless millions more were left to pick up the pieces
of their broken lives. Six million of the casualties were men, women, and
children of Jewish descent, equaling two-thirds of the European Jewish
population at the time. In addition to Jews, the Nazis also eliminated
those whom they saw as racially inferior or politically dangerous (Berenbaum).
One would think that such loss of life would teach humanity of its
potential for destruction. Yet intolerance rages on, unsubdued by the
Holocaust's end and resurgent behind a new veil of bigotry. If we are to
have any chance at preventing the pasts of survivors and victims from
becoming our futures, we must remember the harrowing price of ignorance.
For some, these numbers and facts are just
that, statistics without faces. Some remember the Holocaust as a mere
headline in a newspaper or heading in a history book. However, for others,
the encounter was real. For these victims, the Holocaust bears with it
traumatic recollections and memories. Remembering for them means reopening
healed up wounds of their pasts and meticulously sifting through the
chapters of pain.
But what for? Why must humanity bear forever the burden of such a calamity? The answers to these questions lie not only in remembering the past, but also in looking toward the future. The Hitler Regime massacred millions of men, women, and children without cause. Ironically, their deaths have a purpose. They serve as a barefaced reminder of the atrocities committed and the lives sacrificed. To pass on the records of their deaths is to give back to the dead their voices and to allow their lives to again have meaning. This was the very thing of which Hitler attempted to rob them. Yet, for what do these voices cry? Elie Wiesel, renowned author and Holocaust survivor, shares his reasons for remembering with many of the victims. According to an interview with Anson Lang, in an attempt to break the silence and taboo nature of the Holocaust, he wrote about his experience so as to be a "messenger" who would convey to the world the cost of indifference and intolerance. By forcing upon himself the task of remembering his traumatic experience, he hoped to recollect for the world the suffering of misunderstanding and rage.
From a personal view, remembering the past is not a matter of history, but one of family identity. Such is the case for the family of Anna Silverman, a reading teacher at Nyack High School and daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her parents and sister managed narrow escapes from the Nazi regime. Every year, she brings tenth graders to tears with her harrowing personal depiction of her family's circumstances. She comments, "I think it's important for them to hear a first-hand account from a real survivor. It personalizes the event."
And so the pain of the Holocaust will be felt for generations to come. Yet, these generations must also know that they have the power to prevent future Holocausts. The Holocaust will always be remembered for the merciless genocide of millions of innocent victims at the hands of Nazi Germany. However, it must be remembered for much more. It is a constant reminder of how a tiny seed of intolerance can grow to smother a multitude. As Anna Silverman put it:
[The Holocaust] helps the world to see what can happen as a result of intolerance... [and] when intolerance and prejudice become the paradigm for how people lead their lives. It is because of this mentality that I never got to meet my aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My parents and sister survived that same intolerance, but their experiences affected them physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives.
As for me, I know that I am one of those for whom Elie Weisel, Anna Silverman, and others have unbottled their pain. As a student, I am the one to inherit their stories of intolerance and understand their value. However, simply knowing of their experiences is not enough. Responding would be the next step. As future leaders of the world, we must address these issues now, through education and interaction. Biases are the result of a passing on of family values and inherited beliefs, so we must take initiative to be the ones to break the cycle of hatred. Through education, misunderstanding, often the root of intolerance, can be dispelled. Public education must therefore take on the task of helping to instill in all youngsters a sense of open-mindedness.
Cooperation can be promoted by joint
service projects and community involvement. Clubs address intolerance
through bringing together students of different ages, races, and ethnic
backgrounds who share similar interests. By engaging in activities that
aim to encourage unity, individual differences are transcended for the
sake of the group.
Of course, the world will never remember like Jozefiak does; the horror does not torment us every moment of our lives as it does his. And for this, Jozefiak is worried. The pain will not let him forget, but what about the rest of the world? Maybe there will never be another Holocaust, but that is not to say evil and hatred died with the Holocaust. Intolerance still wages in the form of racism, discrimination, and prejudice. Society must confront it today if humanity itself is to survive.
Berenbaum, Michael. "Holocaust." World
Book Online Reference
Gera, Vanessa. "Leaders, survivors gather
to remember Holocaust
Lang, Anson. "Elie Weisel." Bold Type.
Dec. 1999: 3:8.
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