Can you see him?
Imagine, blood is pouring from a man’s head, saturating his body with the thick liquid that every human bleeds. He is no different from the man that stands before him. They breathe the same air, feel the same pain, and came about this Earth in the same way; but he is less and for the past four years he has been seen as unworthy of his dignity or respect, for he is a Jew. He has seen an SS soldier bleed before as the bullets poured from his gun during the Warsaw uprising. He has come to realize that these soldiers are human despite their demonic behavior; they can die just as he can. Now with seventy-five lashes permanently cemented into his back, a beating struck upon his head with the blunt end of a whip, he stands. He is roped around the neck with a horse’s reins and slowly raised off the ground; his bulging eyes and burning throat are thrust upward towards the sky. Yet this man still stands, erect before Commander Feiks as the Nazi screams with frustration over the Jewish slave that will not fall to his knees. He can barely keep his eyes open as he strains to hold onto consciousness. He must see; he must live; he vowed to survive. Can you see him? He is the only man resisting the urge to die as he stands before the other slaves of Camp Budzyn. He stands tall with a will to live that will never be beaten out of him even though it seems as if the rest of the world wants him to fall to his knees (Eisner 255-58).
This man, Jack Eisner, endured complete torture without yielding after his failed attempt to escape the Budzyn camp in Poland. Eisner defied bowing to the need to satisfy his oppressor, “He [Feiks] looked at me squarely in the eye, expecting me to wince, fall on my knees and beg. I just stood there motionless, inches from the whip. I refused to budge. Two sets of blue eyes met, master’s and slave’s” (255). He denied Feiks and Adolf Hitler the satisfaction of another beaten, dead Jewish body being burned into the forgotten air. Eisner swore that he would survive the Holocaust and he did.
It has been nearly sixty-two years since the end of Holocaust, but hatred, discrimination, and prejudice have still not been thwarted. “The forces of barbarity and evil are still active in our world. The Holocaust did not finish in 1945.” Judea Pearl spoke these words as she watched her son’s name being inscribed into the Holocaust Memorial Wall in Florida. Her son was American journalist Daniel Pearl. He was captured and murdered by terrorists in 2002. Although he was not murdered over the same beliefs that took the lives of over eleven million people, he still died by the hands of hatred. His name is the bridge that unfortunately unites today’s inhumanities with those of the past. Judea Pearl’s words were further solidified this year on April 16 at Virginia Tech University. It is Holocaust Remembrance Day and Liviu Librescu barricades his classroom door with his body as his students desperately try to escape through an open window. He can hear the shooting and screaming from the other side. Librescu is familiar with evil and knows what it can do. He survived the Holocaust and continued to defy a murderer until his death. Can you see him? He stands by his door refusing to surrender, like Eisner; knowing that there had to be survivors. He died so that his students could live. Librescu not only disallowed Hitler and the Nazis their twisted dream of the complete annihilation of his Jewish people but that Monday morning he also halted the plan of Seung-Hui Cho.
In order to recognize the
significance in remembering the Holocaust, I had to tell you the stories
of Eisner, Pearl, and Librescu. Eisner was standing so that future
generations would not succumb to the same hatred that was inflicted upon
him and so that they could not ignore the barbarity in their world. The
deaths of Pearl and Librescu proved the world still has inhumanity in
it. They are just three out of the millions that were affected by hate.
The witnesses that endured the Holocaust shared their stories so that
the world would learn from them. They survived so that the Holocaust
could be remembered forever. By not passing the remembrance of the
Holocaust to new generations, Hitler would have succeeded in his
conquest of annihilation. He wanted the people of Jewish faith to be
silenced and forgotten, but he failed. Instead the names of those that
committed evil against them are forgotten. Adina Blady Szwajger will
She fought for humanity as a doctor at the Warsaw Children’s Hospital and helped hide those that wanted to leave the ghetto. The voices of the dead are heard through the survivors as each generation chooses to reject hate and remember the Holocaust. As Eisner and Librescu stood, future generations will continue to stand against hatred and remember the tragedy that was the Holocaust.
As a student, I can continue to do what I have been doing my entire life; I can learn. I have been trained to ask questions and to explore the history that has made this world what is today. The concept of learning from the experiences of others, especially of those who survived massacres like the Holocaust, is vital in the process towards the extermination of hatred. I can take my knowledge of hatred and voice it to others. I can spread the message of equality and enforce the need to learn from history. Throughout my young life I have seen what destruction and hatred can do and know that violence inevitably breeds more violence.
I can stand and speak out against the discrimination, prejudice, violence, and hate that have so long stained our history. I can educate others so that we can plant our feet firmly on the ground, unyielding, and refusing to surrender or succumb to those that do not believe that the Holocaust happened. We will stand for all those who could not, we will speak for those that were silenced, we will listen to those that were once ignored, and we will live for those that were murdered. Can you see us?
Eisner, Jack. The
Survivor. New York, N.Y.: William and Company, INC., 1980.
The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by
the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the
Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.