“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”
There have been many attempts to create remembrances of the Holocaust. Buildings have been constructed in the memory of, and out of respect towards the millions of innocent victims. The memorial in Boston for instance, which I have visited, is tragically beautiful, with translucent pillars of iron and glass, etched with numbers that stretch achingly upward to the sky. The memorials themselves like gravestones that indicate not a grave, as the remains often lay hundreds or thousands of miles from where the monument stands, but rather to mark a place in history, a stain on mankind, a time of immoral actions and inexpressible anguish. It would be wrong though to bury all this under layers of dirt and time. Rather, the gravestone or monument should be a reminder, not to mourn the past and then forget it, but to hold a vigil in preparation for an uncertain future. For the Holocaust has shown us that the evil we fear and despise walks as a shadow behind us, and has not weakened or aged despite the years. The revulsion and pain that grip us as we view the emaciated bodies and mass graves, reveal the horror and fear of a wickedness that lies not typed on the crisp pages of a history book, but lies in our own souls. We all carry the ability to hate and fear. We must create the real memorial within our own hearts, as a remembrance of those that died as a result of unbridled immorality and indifference.
It is important to stress to this generation that religious intolerance and hatred did not commit suicide in a bunker beneath a defeated city. It didn’t end in 1945. It resurfaces daily to haunt the so-called civilized world, where it no longer has to lurk in the shadows, but can bask in the sunlit glory of prejudice. The best way to remember the consequences of religious persecution is to remember the Holocaust. Intolerance is a weakness; it can be used to manipulate us into harming others.
With his oratory powers Hitler ignited a black flame of hatred out of years of prejudice and religious intolerance that were alive in Germany. But people allowed it to continue. When Heydrich addressed police leaders on Kristallnacht he said, "‘Special care is to be taken that Jews arrested on the basis of this directive will not be mistreated’”(Conot 166). Yet the people in mobs destroyed Jewish shops and property, dragged innocent Jews out into the streets where they were beaten and killed.
Yosselevska, a survivor of a massacre at Zagroidski described the death of her sister, “She went up to the Germans with one of her friends- she asked to be spared, standing there naked. A German looked into her eyes and shot the two of them” (Time Life Books 142). To kill a helpless girl, to look into her eyes and decide that she does not have the right to live, takes a great deal of hatred and indifference.
To blame God, or to blame
people that lived decades ago, and say that they’ll never live again, is
both lazy and wrong. What we fear the most is that the same people
capable to these atrocities are reborn with each generation. It is the
ordinary people, like us, that carry hatred and intolerance. In the
world today there exist such atrocities as ethnic cleansing, and wars
and persecution between rival ethnic or religious groups. There is still
intolerance in the United States, with tales of neo-Nazism, and
teenagers spray-painting swastikas on synagogues. Theres too much pain
in the world today, to call it civilized or healed. Therefore in the
defense of both the living and the unborn, we must remember the
Holocaust, as it will keep us from repeating our own mistakes. People
need to remember in this generation how much power they have as
individuals, especially the power to think and hold their own opinions.
A mob, which is what people become when united in a fellowship of hatred
and intolerance, do not use rational thinking or follow a code of
We as a generation are still shaping our own characters, molding ourselves not only according to our environment but our own beliefs. Now its the time for us to remember what type of individual could make the best change in the world, and make it safe for people of all religions. We have the advantage of knowing the consequences of our actions before we make them. We may never imagine that one insult; one act of degradation could lead to something as horrific as what we have seen. But we must remember that we as people have more power that we may imagine; and this power to think and believe comes with great responsibility. The changes we want must begin in ourselves. Each generation should learn anew, as each generation comes with the good and the evil. We must ourselves understand the value of each human life, as it could depend on us to uphold it. We must be the memorials for the Holocaust if we are to prevent its being repeated.
Conot, Robert E. Justice
at Nuremberg. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers Inc, 1983.
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