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
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
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,
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
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
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.
RESISTANCE: TEEN PARTISANS AND RESISTERS WHO
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