For thousands of years humans have lived
amongst each other in love and in war, in judgment and in trust, and in
ignorance and understanding. Different cultures, religions, and countries
are in a large scope all a part of the same entity, a human civilization
that has thus far managed to survive, even through some of the most
bestial acts mankind could even fathom to produce. While we are all a part
of this huge Earth and civilization, with its plethora of natural
resources, and its incredible and mysterious ways, one would wonder why
with all of this abundance and our fortune we would still manage to kill
each other for it. Why must we slay one another and judge for the
resources and living space other humans deserve?
Genocide can be defined as the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group. With the emergence of World War II and Adolph Hitler came the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, handicapped persons, and non-Aryan groups in the concentration camps of Europe. Medical experiments, gunshot, gas chambers, starvation, physical labor, and disease were common methods used to terminate innocent children, mothers, and fathers because of their faith, appearance, or views. While immigrants tried to flee, the Nazi party made it virtually impossible for the population to escape almost certain death. Boatloads of Jewish immigrants were turned away from the United States. Millions of Americans were completely unaware of the horrors occurring in the Nazi world. The 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation on January 27th brings to light the 1.5 million people who passed through the chained fences and never left.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones.
Born in Austria in 1926 he was able to secure a ride aboard a boat bound
for America. With fifty other teenagers and only a German tongue, he came
to a new country by himself, with over 3,500 other teens vying for the
spot he had taken on board that boat. Luckily for Kurt Rosenberg he had
scored high on an IQ test, granting him his right of passage. I was
sixteen before I heard the tale of my grandfather's journey. Sixteen years
before I could truly appreciate my heritage and the strength and passion
it took for me to be where I am today. The teenage generation in America
has not faced the demons awaked by Hitler and his sadistic and credulous
followers. We see the footage and hear the tales, but does the image
simply fade with last year's vocabulary definitions or algebra formulas?
Survivors who weren't as lucky as my
grandfather, who may still bear their tattooed prisoner number, have seen
their fellow heroines fade away throughout the years. Today fewer and
fewer survivors remain to pass on the history first hand.
The United States prides itself on protecting the rights of all individuals. In a country where in certain areas the minority is hard to pinpoint and diversity is continually achieving acceptance one may wonder why prejudice and hate is still so prevalent. Often we try to place blame upon minority groups for economic and socially difficult times, much like Hitler. We create cruel jokes and attach stigmas to a specific group. Although ethnic jokes are casually retold and have become accepted humor, by placing people different than ourselves outside the realm of social standards are we simply promoting the same intolerance and narrow-mindedness as Germans of the World War II era? As teenagers today we are the future of the United States. We are set to pave the path that will lead our country toward becoming a greater democracy, a greater nation, and a safe haven for all to feel both accepted and appreciated. Today we have the power to battle the prejudice, the stigmas, the cruel jokes, and the nasty rumors. Adolph Hitler alone was not able to concoct and implement his outrageous ideas and implacable solutions. His generals, his troops, his advisors, and all his manipulated subjects watched as the Holocaust happened in full public view, with them content to be bystanders in a situation that called for a heroin, a voice, a sympathizer, and a person to stand up and say "this isn't right." As students in our world today we cannot be the bystanders. We cannot watch from the sidelines and do nothing.
Terror does not simply strike overseas, and the grief and confusion that comes hand in hand with this gateway to power may just happen in your city. Start battling the prejudice before it happens. Educate and empower the youth to become involved and stand up for their rights before they become a part of a situation when words are no longer an option. Today we live in a world that allows us to become involved, to seek justice, and demand respect. Take the driver's seat and head to the offices of a Human Rights Group, join student government, and communicate with other students and people. Those who do not make the effort to get involved and speak up have no right to complain.
I often wonder how some people today deny that an event like the Holocaust never happened. How they believe such a horrific portion of history ceased to exist. But then I look at their ignorance and their lack of insight as a sign. A sign that with all that has been accomplished, there is so much yet to be done and so many people yet to be informed. The Holocaust is not simply an event that needs to be retold for historical purposes, but it's an event that needs to be retold for the tragedy and the triumph for which it produced. I look at those people who still are unaware of such a portion of history as a challenge, a challenge that millions like me are willing to take on. So now I ask American teenagers a question: are you ready to rise to the challenge?
Powell, Lawrence. The Holocaust and
History: Introduction to the
Rosenberg, Kurt. Personal Interview. July
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