Be Heard
By Rachel Frawley
Williamston, MI


 

The Holocaust could have occurred anywhere in the world. The seeds that sowed this tragedy are found in all human beings; they await only a hospitable climate to thrive. Any of us could be as the German people were, yearning to be lifted out of our morass, struggling to support our families with little hope, eager to be handed an easy answer by a charismatic leader.

It was with the consent of a negligent world that these conditions fomented a catastrophe. By guarding the liberties of others as we do our own and by teaching our children to do the same, we must ensure that we never give the Holocaust permission to happen again. We have a
responsibility not only to learn the lessons taught by survivors, but also to personally commit ourselves to fighting the forces that set the Holocaust into motion in the first place.

Teaching today's youth about the Holocaust exceeds academic benefits. As the framers of the future, it is crucial for students today to understand not only the horrors committed during the Holocaust, but also the circumstances that gave birth to it. If we dilute, distort, or forget the
lessons of the Holocaust, we will be forced to realize them again. The last villain did not die with Hitler. There will always be those who seek to take advantage of suffering. We must recognize the signs of our own weaknesses, lest we fall prey to those who would use them against us.

Above all, we must have the courage to face our own role in the Holocaust. Concentration camp survivor Kitty Hart said of Auschwitz: "I feel it is my duty to go back" (Kitty: Return to Auschwitz). It is our duty to remember the Holocaust, to honor those who have suffered, and to
protect our future from the failures of our past.

However, it is not enough to simply acknowledge the significance of the Holocaust. Each individual has an obligation to combat prejudice, discrimination, violence and apathy. As history has taught us, the most potent weapon against these elements is public exposure and education.

In 1942 a group of students at the University of Munich formed a society called the White Rose, which published and distributed pamphlets condemning the Nazi philosophy and urging their fellow Germans to sabotage Nazi plans (Anflick 17). This is what the students of today can do to fight negative forces in society. No one person can stop genocide, but any one person can sign a petition, attend a rally, write a letter to the newspaper, or boycott a business. One does not have to move mountains with a single stroke; one just has to be heard. The members of the White Rose had no more resources, experience or prestige than any other students, yet they expanded their group to Berlin, Freiburg, Hamburg and Vienna (Anflick 17). Theirs was the solitary German group that denounced the Nazis' policies of genocide, yet they were heard and
remembered (Anflick 17). In being heard they fought the immediate injustice; in being remembered they immortalized that fight for future generations to join.

When those in the government refuse to act, then individuals must. The Allies could have responded to the plight of the Jews, but they refused on the grounds that the Jews were neither a nation, nor a political force or party, nor a uniformed armed enemy of Germany (Bolkosky 153).

This was the balm they used to salve their conscience. This willing exercise in delusion is exactly the element of human nature Hitler exploited. Margrit Fischer, born in 1918, remembered that Hitler "...never spoke of war. He promised us that unemployment would end, and that
Germany would once again take its place in the world as a state worthy of respect" (Jennings 75). We must guard against our natural inclination to believe what we want to hear. By making it a priority to be politically and socially well informed, students can take the first step toward the
prevention of violence and discrimination.

What makes these measures critical is the inescapable fact that the Holocaust did not vanish into the archives of history. No one knows this better than Leah Hammerstein Silverstein, who was born in the Warsaw ghetto (Anflick 18). When asked if she thought the Holocaust could happen again, she said: "...yes, it's possible. You see, Nazism killed not only people: it killed moral principles. Before you can kill people, you first have to kill moral principles. Then it's possible" (Anflick 53). While we all have the capacity for evil, it is not inevitable that we act on it. It is a choice. The choice lies not only in the commission of violence, but also in the tacit approval of our silence. Our willingness to see discrimination in its infancy and confront it is our moral calling. More than this, it is our most powerful defense. We all have eyes; we just have to be willing to see. We all have a voice; we just have to have the courage to raise it.

 

WORKS CITED

Anflick, Charles. RESISTANCE: TEEN PARTISANS AND RESISTERS WHO
FOUGHT NAZI TYRANNY. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 1999.
Jennings, Bryan. Brewster, Todd. THE CENTURY: FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. New York:
Scholastic, Inc. 1999.
Kitty: Return to Auschwitz. A Y orkshire Television Production. Peter Morley, director.


 

 


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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