We Cannot Remain Children
“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
- Joseph Stalin (“Joseph Stalin Quotes”)
An in-depth examination of the Holocaust obliterates such poisonous indifference. “Obliterates” is not the right word. Truly delving into the horrors of the Holocaust burns away one’s casual callousness, leaving a nightmare’s worth of images branded forever in one’s mind of concentration camps, ghettos, and cattle cars, the tools used to murder millions of people with the same perfunctoriness of reading a newspaper.
It floods one’s senses, sweeping away any apathy that was once a shield from the reality’s occasional morbidity. And at moments of deep, personal, spiritual connection with a particular element from the Holocaust (perhaps a victim whose life had been similar to one’s own), it even seems to momentarily shake one’s soul from its comfortable moorings into the coldness of impenetrable night. All the more piercing is the fact that the hell that the victims of the Shoah actually endured dwarfs any lingering funereal shadows in one’s heart after one’s study. Survivor, author, and activist Elie Weisel laid bare to the world this agony, “Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust” (Elie Weisel – Night).
While every story of the
eleven million Jews, Gypsies, blacks, homosexuals, mentally disabled,
and Communists who were killed is tragedy epitomized, the tales of the
young people whose lives were destroyed or ended are particularly
poignant. Fifteen-year-old Benjamin Jacobs survived the Nazi’s
systematic slaughter, but lost every member of his family before the
Third Reich was conquered. A laborer at Auschwitz, Jacobs recalls
hearing the worst news of his life. “When you receive this letter, Mama
and I will no longer be alive,” a crumpled and tear-stained letter from
his sister read. In his memoirs, Jacobs reveals, “I raised my eyes and
looked up, transfixed, to the heavens. I asked God why, but only silver
rings swirled in front of my eyes” (The Dentist of Auschwitz).
Because it is all
happening again. The same unbridled hatred and prejudice still exist in
the world that led to the senseless atrocity that was the Holocaust. In
countries like the Sudan, religious and ethnic intolerance has led to
the deaths of 400,000 men, women, and children. Many survivors endure a
fate worse than death, starving, rotting in refugee camps, and suffering
repeated rapes (www.SaveDarfur.org)
Living in an age where
ideas can transfer around the globe in nanoseconds, the young people of
today have a special opportunity to aid in this armament. A simple blog
can illuminate the darkness that thousands of people inhabit around the
planet. A link on a Facebook webpage to one of the hundreds of
Holocaust-dedicated websites can guide visitors down an unsettling path
to truth and show them the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. It
can even change a life.
Sometimes the events that
change the course of history originate in the smallest and least
important places and stem from the slightest actions. Adolf Hitler
started off in poverty-stricken, post-war Germany and was no different
than anyone else. If one man was able to start from nothing and do so
much evil, there is no reason that a simple, unassuming person can rise
from nothing and achieve tremendous good. All that is necessary is to
put down the newspapers and try. It’s the very least that one can do to
honor the lost lives of the eleven million.
The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by
the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the
Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.