Cries on the Wind
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.”
- Helen Keller
In my U.S. History class we were studying the Holocaust. We were suppose to be watching a movie about Auschwitz that day, but as I looked around I was horrified to see that I was the only one paying attention. A huddle of girls sat in the corner giggling and gossiping, a group of guys talked about something they’d done over the weekend, three kids sat trying to guess someone''s middle name, and everyone else was sleeping or passing notes back and forth. There I sat in the midst of the chaos staring up at the screen straining to hear. A man was walking through Auschwitz remembering his imprisonment there. He sobbed as he recounted the last time he had seen his father. I had never been so disgusted with my peers in my life. How could they be so apathetic? Didn’t they know about the horrible things that had happened in the Holocaust?
Remember what happened in Germany, they say. Remember those that died, and prevent it from happening again. Eleven million were killed in the Holocaust. Eleven million who at one time possessed hopes and dreams for the future. Eleven million who were just like you and me. They froze in the dead of winter, ached with the agony of endless hunger, worked to the point of exhaustion, and were sent to the dreaded gas chambers to die.
I didn’t understand the horror they went through until I saw the pictures. It was those eyes, those bottomless pits of agony and terror mixed with hopelessness and despair that reached their icy fingers out of the page and gripped my heart forever. They all had a life once, and a hope for a future. But it was all taken away by the hatred of one man who knew how to manipulate people into believing his words. He spoke and the apathetic multitude listened, and because they listened millions were slaughtered.
In 1942 the extermination camps Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka were opened with one purpose: to exterminate the Jews of Poland. Within a year more than 1.7 million Jews had been gassed there. The worst was yet to come however, and in the spring of 1943 the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz, opened four gas chambers. At the height of deportations they gassed 8,000 people a day (United States Holocaust Memorial). Trapped behind barbed-wire fences and foreboding iron gates, the victims of discrimination prayed for liberation and waited for the world to do something.
By this time, small groups had begun to fight the Nazi regime, but their efforts weren’t enough (United States Holocaust Memorial). While they died for freedom, the rest of the world remained silent, and ignored the agonizing cries of the Jews that were carried on the wind. In her book, Betty Schimmel said, “I hoped some of the Hungarians watching our march would do something to help us - give us some food or offer us some water. But they did nothing, said nothing. They merely watched as the Jewish population was exterminated (150).” The eyes of the apathetic were blind to the suffering, and so they did nothing. By the time the world stepped in to stop Hitler’s reign, the death toll had reached over eleven million lives in all. How many could have been saved if the world would have spoken up sooner?
I realize now that the apathy my peers
showed in class that day was no different than the apathy the world
showed when millions were being slaughtered. They turned deaf ears on
something that needed to be heard. We should have learned from their
apathy, but instead we’re following their example, and letting history
repeat itself over again.
This is about remembering the Holocaust, but it’s much more than that. It’s about never forgetting what man has done to man. It’s about how we, as the future generation, must stop genocide while we still can. No one in this world should have to hunger and thirst for freedom from discrimination and death.
I didn’t understand it before. But then
I saw their eyes, and I heard their stories. Now I know why it’s so
important to remember. And because I know I have a responsibility to my
generation to help make them aware of the past. I must spread the word
and speak up for what I believe in because if I don’t, they will never
know what happened in Nazi Germany, and they will never know how to
prevent genocide in the future.
Remembering is learning. We must
remember that we are all people. As Americans, our forefathers knew it,
and from them we should learn it. All men truly are created equal. If
this generation can learn and come to believe the truth in that simple
statement, then we can save the future from the heartache that has
plagued the world thus far.
This generation can save lives with the antidote to apathy, which lies in one simple word: love. If we can learn to do that, then we can save Darfur, and we can work to create a free world for the future.
“The cure for all ills and wrongs, the cares the sorrows and the crimes of humanity, all lie in the one word ‘love’. It is the divine vitality that everywhere produces and restores life.”
- Lydia Maria Child
<Schimmel, Betty. To See You Again: A True Story of Love and War. Plume: October 1, 2001>
<United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum. “Extermination Camps.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/.>
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