Inhumanity. Brutality. Pure,
incomprehensible, illogical hatred. These words are hardly strong enough
to describe the pains, tortures, and deaths of Jews, homosexuals,
blacks, mentally-challenged and many other groups during the Holocaust
(Berlin, Carolyn). Such atrocities are inconceivable to imagine – 11
million innocent, helpless human lives, of which 6 million were Jews,
tortured and murdered because an army of Aryans deemed them vermin and
unworthy of human life (Weinberg 218).
And while this army, the Nazis, led by Adolph Hitler, reigned destruction on so many beautiful lives, the inhabitants of the ever-expanding Aryan empire, including almost all of the countries of Europe, turned a blind eye (Berenbaum 66-155). They did nothing to stop the countless trains of cattle cars that went through their countries, packed beyond limit with screaming and pleading victims, to death camps, only to return to their starting points, void of humanity and morality. Ella Adler, a magnificent, brave voice of conscience and survivor of Auschwitz, described her entrance to the camp: “Crisp, well-tailored officers pulled us out of the train cars, jabbed, prodded, and shoved us into lines while others of them gazed at us with steely, cold hatred, indifferent to our humanness. The Nazi propaganda had worked. These young officers were trained to see us as inhuman, infested vermin. We were almost living proof of a well-instrumented, self-fulfilling prophecy. Kapos in striped, filthy, prisoner uniforms herded us like undefined animals into a large room where we were separated, men from women, and told to undress. Shivering and cold with no respite from our sufferings, we were ripped away from all that we possessed including our last remnants of dignity.” In the concentration camps, prisoners met their deaths in masses. Those who weren’t immediately gassed were put to work digging the mass graves in which their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children were to be deposited (Berlin, Carolyn). Anyone who managed to stay alive for some time often ended up tortured and beaten to death. This was the Holocaust – death of the innocent because of the blind hatred and brute power of others.
The true realization of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust was a shock to the majority of the world. With this new information of the deaths, tortures and rampant illnesses, people began to ask themselves how such a horrendous event was ever allowed to occur in so-called civilized society (Berlin, Carolyn). This is the critical question. Only by humanity’s magnified soul –searching and recognition of the reality and participation in this event, can humanity ever prevent the Holocaust from happening again.
Therefore as the remaining survivors pass away, we must tell their stories to every new generation so that all people know of the mind-boggling capacity of hate to threaten civilization and humanity. By making their memories a part of our own, we are honoring their existence and their willingness to live and better the world by educating us. Our selective memories define who we are, and so then we must imprint our memories onto the next generation and so on. I hold in my heart the stories of my dear friends, Ella and Harry Adler, both survivors of the Holocaust, and the memories that my grandparents, Todiris and Betty Avraham, shared with me about their struggle through the Holocaust. Last summer my entire family went with our grandparents back for the first time since 1949 to Romania. I saw the graves, the memorials, the homes, the schools, the shops, the synagogues, the city and rural streets, and my Safta and Saba’s tears from the 56 years of welled-up memories and stories of persecution, hiding and fear. Their experience has become part of my memory also, and I will not forget. It has changed me and changed the way I see injustice, or tolerate it.
Hate does still exist and knows no borders. Having grown up in a Jewish home and with a strong Jewish identity, I am acutely aware and unfortunately have been the recipient of ignorant, anti-Semitic remarks. I have family in Israel, and I fear for them and my people when hearing about the result of unchecked hate and propaganda – homicide bombing attacks. Preventing this hatred and prejudice led me to participate in the Jacobs International Teen Leadership Institute, JITLI. JITLI is a program that brings together ten San Diego teens who journey with Israeli, Bedouin and Palestinian teens on a mission to change preconceptions and pursue an agenda of friendship in an attempt to do what our governments have not been able to– to achieve peace. The cultures in which we live, learn, and pray are vastly different, often resulting in opposing opinions. Although peace was not achieved, the bonds of friendship were established. The memories of the counselors separating our sobbing embraces as we departed, the excitement in learning, touching, and tasting new cultures, remains palpable, alive, and the mission ever-present. I now consider Palestinians, who I once felt hostility towards, my friends.
From knowledge springs compassion, and the hope to end hate. Educating people about the Holocaust is the key to preventing hate and prejudice today. Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League promote tolerance through programs like the Manhigim Teen Leadership Institute in which I was a participant. I worked with other students in the development of a teaching project on media bias and diversity. Our final phase of this year-long program was to present our topic to other high school classes throughout San Diego County in an effort to open minds and hearts. I am dedicated to these ageless ideals and will continue in my quest to strive toward a world of acceptance and celebration of human diversity.
It is an embarrassment to our evolution as a species that in 2006, we still witness hate in our world. Daily at home or, on a larger scale, abroad in places like Darfur. The xenophobia that pollutes humankinds’ capacity for good and fulfillment of every person’s inalienable right to exist and live without fear, is unfortunately a force my generation has to also face and hopefully, to someday conquer. I believe if we set our minds and our course of action to it, it will be possible in my lifetime, and just maybe, within my parent’s lifetime. Ella Adler once wrote to me, “the resilience of human spirit to survive against all odds has no limits,” and so I have made it my duty as a human being to hold strong and true and do everything in my power to ensure that the Holocaust happens “never again”.
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