A Warning:
Holocaust Remembrance Project

By Erica Efron
Northridge, CA


 

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.
When will humans stop killing? The Holocaust was not the only mass murdering campaign in history, but definitely the deadliest and the most remembered. If the six million people had not been murdered, what would have become of their lives? Where would Anne Frank be today I wonder? As a Jewish American I have contemplated the possibilities numerous times, in and out of school. My faith has not only been tested in Europe in the early 20th century, but anti-Semitism still continues. In August 1999 a man walked in to the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California (my preschool) and started firing. His anti-Semitism ran so deep as to target three-year-old children. Although this incidence may be tragic and hard to fathom, it must be recounted. These three-year-olds did not ask to be the target of Anti-Semitism in America. They did not ask to see the barrel of a gun when they were more concerned with building sandcastles. But life does not always turn out the way we plan. If I could change history I would not simply have taken back the Holocaust, but would try to take back the hatred and the blame we continue to have for one another. The Holocaust was simply a horrific example of the merciless capabilities of the human race. Although I hate to admit it, the event was necessary in order for future generations to learn and grow from tragedy. But let's hope that in this situation history doesn't show a tendency of repeating itself.

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?

Works Cited:

Powell, Lawrence. The Holocaust and History: Introduction to the
Survivor's Stories:1999-2000.

URL: http://www.holocaustsurvivors.org/cgi-
bin/datashow.pl?di=record&da=text&ke=6

Rosenberg, Kurt. Personal Interview. July 2003.
 

 


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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